NFL Draft Prospect Interview – Max Bullough, ILB Michigan State

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November 17, 2012; East Lansing, MI, USA; Northwestern Wildcats quarterback Kain Colter (2) is tackled by Michigan State Spartans linebacker Max Bullough (40) during the 2nd half at Spartan Stadium. Northwestern won 23-20. Mandatory Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

PS: What is it about Coach Dantonio and Coach (Pat) Narduzzi that get you guys to play at such a high level?

MB: Well, it’s the expectation.  When you come to Michigan State, you come to play and it’s a fight.  We’re not the team that throws all over like basketball on a football field’ the spread offenses and all these crazy defenses.  We go to play and we go to fight and that’s the expectation really instilled in the players and that’s the way you want to be.

That’s the type of people they recruit and once we’re in there, it’s about the seniors and the leaders of the team engulfing the rest of the team in that mentality.  It’s contagious.  It’s fun to play like that.  It’s fun to play hard.  It’s fun to play tough.  It’s just a mindset you gotta have and it’s a mindset that we have had as we move forward.

PS: How big is it for Pat Narduzzi to stay at Michigan State as defensive coordinator?

MB: Oh, it’s huge.  I mean, Coach Narduzzi is one of the best coaches I’ve ever had.  He’s a genius with the X’s and O’s, he puts the time in, he loves the game, he’s an emotional coach which is what I loved about him.  What makes Coach Narduzzi special and really the whole staff is their passion, their excitement; just the way they approach the game, it’s contagious to us.

You want to play for a coach that is screaming, yelling before the game and it’s not to get you pumped  up, it’s not for show, but it’s how he feels.  It’s obviously how we feel before the games, so it’s easy to relate to and easy to play like that, easy to play tough, easy to play hard, it’s just one big family doing the right thing.

PS: With a defense that talented, who was the guy in the huddle players looked to when the team got in a tough spot and needed some energy?

MB: Well, that was me.  I’ve been in that position for a few years.  I was a two-time captain and I started my sophomore year, so that was always me.  That’s a position I’m comfortable with, but obviously other guys have stepped up.  Darqueze is a guy that’s turned out to be a phenomenal leader that was such a quiet kid when he got here, so he’s a guy that did it.  That’s a position I’m comfortable whether I’m making a big play or talking in front of the huddle or talking in the locker room to the defense, the whole team.  That’s a position I’m comfortable with and I like doing, so I’ve been doing that the past few years.

PS: How would you describe your game?

MB: Well, I’m a smart football player.  I know what’s going on for both sides of the ball.  I know every player’s position on defense.  I watch a lot of film during the week, so I know what’s going on in the offense, what they’re doing and a lot of the times we were able to make adjustments as an entire unit that would put us in a defense for that.  I was a big part of that.

I’m a physical, downhill, big time football player.  I’ve learned and I’ve been training out here to adapt to a three-down NFL linebacker, if you will, by moving my hips, doing my drops and those things, so I think I’m a physical, downhill player that has proven he can do everything.

PS: That’s the key question, isn’t it?  Are you a three-down linebacker?

MB: Well, I think I’ve proven that I have been, whether I’ve worked out at the combine well, I had a good pro day, I think I’m proving to people that I can be on the field the whole game, which is what I want to do.  I want to be on the field the whole game.

PS: Who was the guy that was the toughest to bring down in your career?

MB: I’ll tell you what, Le’Veon (Bell) was pretty hard to bring down in practice.  He was definitely a beast and he’s still doing his thing, I don’t know; a guy like Carlos Hyde who was big bruiser who would run forward.  He was tough to bring down I guess.  There were other guys that were pretty quick.  I really respect that guy from Nebraska, (Ameer) Abdullah.  He was a good back.  And then you’ve got the big guy, (Mark) Weisman from Iowa.  It’s just different styles of play, whether it’s a big guy, hard to bring down or a guy that knows where to go, can jump cut on you.  That’s hard to bring down too.

PS: At different points in the process, there were concerns over your weight.  You showed up to the East-West Shrine Game at around 265 and then got down to 248 for your Pro Day, so what happened?

MB: As soon as the Bowl game was out, I came out here and started training, you know, I was just eating a lot of proteins, I wasn’t really running very much.  There hasn’t been a time in my career where I wasn’t in Spring ball, Fall camp, Winter conditioning, Summer conditioning, whatever it is and then when I first got out here, we just started doing the form and the technique stuff and not running a whole lot.  Lifting a lot, doing a lot of lifting.  I wasn’t some big, fat 265.  I felt good.  I know I moved well at the East-West Shrine Game.  I felt like I did.  I made some great plays at the game and I think a lot of the coaches saw some of that too.

Honestly, that’s not my playing weight.  That’s not my ideal weight, but once I got back and got on a program I needed to be for the combine, I got down to the weight I needed to be.  I’ve never been that heavy before.  It’s just a different time.  Like I said, I wasn’t running.  I was eating all of the food that they give us, so I was lifting heavy, but my weight doesn’t fluctuate like that, that was just the one time.

PS: When you went to the combine at a better weight, did you have a hidden confidence, ready to prove all the people wrong who doubted you and the weight gain?

MB: Yea, absolutely.  I think anytime, especially for me, when people talk bad about you, it motivates me.  I know the work I’m doing.  I know what I’m doing.  I know it’s the right thing, so I’ll tell ya.  After that game, I got a lot of negative coverage, whoever it was from, I just said wait.  Wait and see.  I’ll show you at the combine.  I’ll show you at pro day.  I’m not what people thought I was then and people don’t think it anymore.  I proved what I was trying to tell people right.

PS: What’s been the biggest question NFL teams have had for you?  Was it the weight or being able to play nickel or something else?

MB: No, the weight’s been asked by the media.  The coaches don’t care if you’re 295lbs if you run a 4.5 and can do everything you need to do, then you’re fine.  Obviously, that’s not what the real world is like, but as long as you can do what they need you to do, they don’t really care.

The biggest question for them was because I didn’t have a lot of opportunities to show pass drop ability at Michigan State, because that isn’t the defense we ran, so I needed to show that I could do that and be able to be on the field for the whole game like I was telling you earlier and I’ve definitely done that in my last few outings whether it was combine or pro day.  And I’ve gotten that feedback from the coaches.

PS: How much of that was due to the fact that the scheme called you to attack downhill what seemed like 75-80% of the time?  It seemed like that scheme always had you attacking forward and attacking whomever had the football.

MB: Oh, absolutely.  That’s what our defenses ran.  Our defense ran to where our defensive tackles read and the linebackers were just sitting there waiting to go.  If we ran run, all three linebackers were basically blitzing our gaps.  A simple inside zone, we weren’t sitting there, we were blitzing our gap.  Mine was the A gap.  That’s the way we played and I think we were pretty good at it.  So that’s why I don’t think people got to see a lot of stuff that they see in other people that were sitting back there and would read, move around a little bit because we were attacking the line of scrimmage.

PS: So, it’s not a weakness.  It’s what the scheme called you for to do.  Having the corners you did, having so many guys in the box, sending them to attack and if the running back got the ball, you tackle him and if not, you go get the quarterback.

MB: Yep, that’s what we did.

PS: Are you satisfied with where you are in the process and the impression you’ve left on teams in what you bring and what you can do for them?

MB: Oh, I feel great.  I feel like I’ve had a great experience at the Shrine game, a great experience at the combine with all the coaches, interviewed well, and then obviously pro day was one of my better showings.  I feel great.  I feel confident that I did just about everything that I could do and wanted to show leading up to the draft and that’s really all I can ask for.  You know, I feel good, I feel confident and I’m excited to see that play out at the draft.

PS: What was the most meaningful victory for you in your career?

MB: Obviously, every time we beat Michigan.  That’s something that’s personal for me.  And then beating Ohio State in the championship game; that was a great team.  Great coach, great players.  They’ve won a lot of games in a row.  We were not supposed to win that game and then we went there and we played well and really, brought Michigan State to where I think they belong.  Along with the Michigan wins, that’s the biggest victory for me.

– The immediate take away in speaking to Max is just how much Michigan State means to him and how proud he is for being able to contribute in getting them back to national prominence.  From growing up a fan of the program and growing up in and around it to getting to help them beat Notre Dame as a freshman and finishing his career with the Spartans atop of the Big Ten and going back and winning in Pasadena.  Max is certainly proud of what he has been able to accomplish on a personal level, but it starts and ends with what he has been able to do for the program.  If he can take that some kind of passion, fire, and ownership to the NFL, a fan base is going to love Max as much as the Spartan fan base.