NFL Draft Prospect Interview – Kareem Martin, DE North Carolina

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September 15, 2012; Louisville, KY USA; North Carolina Tar Heels defensive end Kareem Martin (95) sacks Louisville Cardinals quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (5) during the second half of play at Papa John

PS: What did you measure in at your Pro Day?

KM: 6’5 7/8” 270lbs.

PS: Is 270 about where you’re looking to be?

KM: It all depends on where I go and what team drafts me.  I’ve talked at the combine and had conversations with different teams.  It all depends where they want me to play.  I’ve heard some teams want me to stay here, drop a little, stand up, rush in the 3-4.  Some teams want me to bulk up to play that 5-technique in the 3-4.  Some teams want me to hover around this area to stay a 4-3 end, so I won’t know really what to do with the weight.  I just knew 270 would be a good weight for me to be at this point in time, so they can see the versatility.  I still have speed and strength and everything at this weight.  Even though I’m heavy, I can still do the athletic things I did when I was 260.

PS: Did it surprise you that there were teams interested in you as a standup rusher?

KM: It wasn’t really a surprise.  I’ve played a little bit coming in, you know, coming from high school, but I was athletic enough in this scheme; it’s just that we didn’t drop our ends that much.  Our bandits on the other side, they did all the dropping, so you need the other guy to rush, so I think they saw the potential in it.  Even though they saw a lot of things I can do with my hand on the ground, they see the potential for me to drop in the flats.  If I am standing up in the 3-4, I’m still probably going to be doing a lot of rushing.

PS: What was it about this senior season that was different for you?

KM: I had a great spring ball and great offseason.  I started to learn about myself as a player.  I spent a lot of time in spring just working on different moves and when Coach (Keith) Gilmore came, this was his first year with us, he came in there and introduced the long arm stab to me and I tried it before, but didn’t know much about it.  He’s had long arm guys at Illinois and other places and he just worked on me with that and that summer, I watched a lot of film on myself, just seeing what kept me away from the quarterback; what I didn’t have at the time that was keeping me away from the quarterback.  Once I figured that out, you know, I turned it into a great senior season.

PS: If I look at the stat sheet, I see 11.5 sacks, that’s a great year, but if I’m a team looking to press you, I see 7.5 of those sacks are in three games, what was it about those 3 games that allowed you to be so effective and what stopped you from being as productive in so many other games?

KM: I feel like, overall, the whole year, I was productive.  My sack numbers during the season didn’t always show, but I was still having tackles for loss and affected the game having a lot of tackles and everything, but that second half of the year is when I caught my stride.  Everything started working for me and I still had a lot of quarterback hurries , so it was just something that held me back at the time from just actually getting to the quarterback a step later, so it wasn’t necessarily something that happened.  Everything just started falling into place for me.

PS: Beyond the sack numbers, the number that jumps out is no matter the year is tackles for loss.  What does that say for what you can bring to a team?

KM: Tackles for loss is a big thing.  It’s one thing to have a lot of tackles, but if you’re disrupting, wreaking havoc in the backfield, it means a lot.  You’re putting the team in a better position.  If you can get tackles for loss, it means they’re going to have to start throwing it and you can open up the playbook for the coaches.  That’s what they like.  They like to have a lot of things to pick from and you can pin your ears back and rush the quarterback with a lot of tackles for loss.

PS: How much effort do you put into stripping the ball and trying to cause turnovers?

KM: You always work on stripping the ball and when you’re in the quarterback, work on wrapping, securing and swiping down.  I just pick my opportunities.  You’re not going to get a strip every time, but when you get that opportunity, have to go for it.  Luckily, I was able to 3 or 4 this past season and even though you only have three or four, you’re constantly just stripping at the ball and that was one of my goals; takeaways.  Every time I had a running back or quarterback secured, I was stripping at the ball.

PS: You have a background in basketball and look like a power forward on the field, but you took that background to the field and basically said, if you’re not going to get the quarterback, you’re going to do everything in your power to knock down the pass.

KM: Yea, definitely.  Especially earlier in my career, when I wasn’t as good of a pass rusher, that’s what I really depended on was swatting balls.  That’s something people overlook a lot of times, but those swatted balls start to add up after a while and one thing I’ve been given by God is long arms and just having that ability.  Teams have started liking the long armed guys.  Look at guys like J.J. Watt who’s close to batting down what? 20 a year or so?  It’s a big factor that goes overlooked by DLinemen.