NFL Draft Prospect Interview – Gus Handler, C Colorado

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Nov 23, 2013; Boulder, CO, USA; Colorado Buffaloes running back Michael Adkins II (19) rushes as Southern California Trojans defensive tackle Antwaun Woods (99) chases behind the block of offensive linesman Gus Handler (55) in the fourth quarter at Folsom Field. The Trojans defeated the Buffaloes 47-29. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

PS: I had one person compare you to Brian De La Puente, now with the Chicago Bears.  Do you feel like that is a good comparison for you or is there someone else you sort of model your game after?

GH: Yea, one of the things that helped me narrow my decision on the agency of which to sign with was  Rep 1 has a real good, you know, they have three real good centers in Brian De La Puente, Evan Dietrich-Smith and Scott Wells.  I think that’s a great comparison to me because as far as I know, Brian De La Puente is about the same size as me and the things that I’ve heard is, he’s just a hard worker, he’s a hardnosed, blue-collar kind of lunch pail guy and I feel like that’s a pretty accurate statement about me too.

PS: Last year, David Bakhtiari was on your offensive line and just finished his rookie season this year with the Green Bay Packers.  I had a chance to speak with Nick Kasa last year and he basically described him as one of the best athletes on the team.  Are you in that same type of vein being that you were brought up and developed the same way?

GH: I think he’s a really good athlete and he was probably one of my first friends when I got on campus.  It was great competing with him.  We had a lot of fun together, competing and making each other better, so yea, I’d definitely have to say that I am the same calber as him.

PS: They had injuries and other issues, but Bakhtiari ultimately went from a fourth round rookie to being pressed into the starting lineup and he did reasonably well this past year.  Did you follow him much and does his success at the next level make you feel more confident in your own ability to succeed at the next level?

GH: Through this whole process, all I want is an opportunity whether I get drafted, it’d be great to hear my name called, but as long as I can get into a camp and get the opportunity to compete, that’s all you can ever ask for.  Every once in a while, when I could, I would watch Dave play, but the day after game, we had film and the day after the game lift and everything, so I didn’t get to watch him play much, but I heard good things and I think that’s just a testament to Dave’s a good athlete and a competitor.  It shows that it’s a great example of someone was given an opportunity and made the most of it.

PS: You a (Chicago) Bears guy?

GH: Yea, I’m a Bears guy, but hopefully in the next month, I might not be a Bears guy, so we’ll see.

PS: But as a Bears guy, your teammate you played with for three years, of course gets his name called by a division rival in the Packers.  I have to imagine you DVR’d or somehow watched at least those two games.

GH: Yea, the games that I could watch, especially the Bears, I definitely watched.  Unfortunately, I was a college student and didn’t have the most money from those stipends, so I couldn’t afford that DVR that you mentioned (laughs).

PS: So are you suggesting you wouldn’t mind getting some of those NCAA profits and being able to afford a dish and NFL Sunday Ticket type stuff?

GH: It definitely wouldn’t hurt.  It’d be nice.

PS: Not only that, but this is going on in your backyard at Northwestern?

GH: When I was back home training, I was training with one of the guys who was on the Northwestern team last year, so I was asking about that stuff.  Yea, it’s pretty interesting, so we’ll see what happens with that stuff.

PS: Is that something that interests you or because it is not really going to have any impact on you as you’re leaving college, it’s not really your issue?

GH: Yea, it’s interesting because I did it for four and a half years.  I know exactly what those guys are talking about.  It’s probably not something I would actively pursue, but heck, if anyone approached me or asked for my input like a testimony, I’d be more than willing to offer my services.

PS: Recently, Doug Gottlieb of CBS Radio basically said that any college player that was saying they put in 60 hours per week on football was lying.  What is your reaction when people say stuff like that?

GH: I would tell those people to come and you know, shadow us for a day, especially during the season.

PS: Lift, trainer’s table, practice, film with the team, film on your own and any extra workout or whatever you do and then if you can fit it in, school.

GH: Oh yea, oh yea.  I, personally, I remember when this started and my dad told me to log the hours of the week and I can tell you it was well over 60.  If anyone doubts that, especially at Colorado, they can ask for, you know, a ride along, a police ride along to see how much we put in.

PS: How much responsibility did your coaches put on you as a center?

GH: It was a huge responsibility.  I recall getting yelled at because I wasn’t demonstrative with my call or I didn’t communicate with my offensive linemen, although I feel some of them made mistakes and blamed it on me.  It all comes back to the center.  And like I said before, not only do I set the offensive line, I set the tight ends, the running back and the quarterback, so it’s a big role and I think a lot of people overlook it.  The average fan overlooks it and that’s why playing center, I’ve learned so much more about playing football and I have a lot more respect for centers as I keep playing and playing.

PS: From practicing guard, do you like the freedom that comes with being a guard and focusing on what you’re doing or do you really prefer the responsibility and control that comes with playing the pivot?

GH: I definitely like playing center, because in a weird way, it’s kind of like being the catcher of a baseball team.  You kind of set everyone and everything plays off of you, so it’s definitely fun being that guy out there and getting to point, we’re going to this guy or we’re going to that guy, altering the QB that somebody’s coming, but like you said, guard, there’s a little less worry.  You can go out and have fun playing football, but center to me is like a chess game or a catcher in baseball.  Both positions are pretty fun.

PS: Who is the best player you went up against in your career?

GH: The DTackle whose now with the (Carolina) Panthers from Utah, Star (Lotulelei).

PS: How’d you do?

GH: That was 2011, so that was my redshirt sophomore year.  I would say I held more than my own.  That game was probably one of my better games and the best game I’ve seen any Colorado team play.  If you remember, Utah that year was really good and they had a lot of momentum going into that game and we beat them and stopped them from going to the PAC-12 Championship Game.  I played a really good game that game.  They had a good game with the Kruger brothers too and some tough linebackers.

PS: So going into the NFL you can say you owned one of the best rookies in the NFL this past year and the 14th pick in the draft?  You going to star that on your resumé?

GH: Yea, I mean wouldn’t say I owned him (laughs), because that’s a pretty bold statement and not something I want attached to my name, but I had a pretty good game.

PS: What is your takeaway from your time with Coach Embree?

GH: I really liked Coach Embree.  He was the definition of a player’s coach and I loved every member of his staff.  Like I said, he was a player’s coach, so we all played for him.  He knew when to push us and he knew when to pull the reins and he kind of eased up on us, but that whole situation was pretty unfortunate and I really wish he would’ve gotten a little more time to be our coach, but that’s just the business of what it is.

PS: If what you’re saying is true and you lost 26 seniors for that year, he was basically trying to build a team out of freshman and sophomores.

GH: Yea, he was handed a pretty tough task and a lot of people can say, you know, like my brother goes to UCLA, so Coach (Jim) Mora got those guys back pretty soon, but Coach Embree was thrown into a tough spot and honestly, you can’t tell me he wasn’t giving me 100% percent of his effort and he didn’t want us to succeed, because he was a Buffalo and he told us all the time he was a Buffalo.  He played there, he coached there, he was a Buff through and through.  He was thrown into a tough spot, but I really appreciated every day he was our coach.

PS: How much have you been able to do in terms of outreach in your career?

GH: Every year, we had family groups and at least once every semester, we got to go out and do something in the community.  One time, three of my buddies, we went out and read a book to a bunch of elementary school kids, which was pretty neat.  Another time, we went out and helped with a 5k race, cheered people on and help them set up.  And especially this past season with the floods that were in Boulder, we invited a bunch of people to our stadium and gave them a meal and tried to give them some positive thoughts and get their spirits up.  It was fun.

PS: How tough was that situation and everything that happened with it?  For much of the country, it was ‘Oh, there’s a flood; moving on.’

GH: Yea, I mean it was tough because we were 2-0 heading into that game, riding pretty high with our spirits up and everything and the season kind of came to a halt; a 2 week bye basically.  But like you said, a lot of people didn’t realize how big it was and the impact it had on our community.  I mean, I remember the first day, it was kind of like, wow, it never really rains this much in Boulder.  And then the second day, it was like, really? Again?  And then the third day it really started to get bad and a lot of streets were closed and school was cancelled.  It affected the community a lot.  I really don’t think people saw the toll that it took on the city of Boulder.

PS: What is a team ultimately getting from Gus Handler?

GH: An offensive lineman who is a smart kid.  Someone who is going to play hard; just do everything possible to be the most successful person that I can be.

– Gus is an easy going guy, but he is confident about what he can do on the football field and how he can help a team.  And good luck to him as he pursues that dream.  He did ask me to do him a favor, so here it is.  Since Rashida Jones is no doubt an NFL Draft fan and is undoubtedly well versed in this class of PAC-12 interior linemen, she may already be aware, but in case she is not, Gus described her as his celebrity crush and would like to be put in touch with her, so if anyone can help him out with it, he would appreciate it.