When I came home from this year's Combine, I started putting together my list of players to interview. From Curry and Sanchez to a certain quarterback you'll hear more about very soon, I got just about everyone I wanted. The guy I wanted to talk to as much as anyone, based on his Combine press conference, was a fifth-round prospect who looks like a linebacker backup/special teams hybrid. Why?
A few fast facts about Cal linebacker Zack Follett:
His hero is Terry Tate, Office Linebacker. "I get real pumped up for games. This is something I love to do, and to do it in front of 70,000 fans, plus people watching at home on an ESPN game, that gets me even more juiced. To go out and have a chance to be on ESPN like that, I think they had me miked up for the game and I was talking about the Pain Train. And growing up, Terry Tate, No. 56, the Office Linebacker, he was my hero watching those commercials. I tried to emulate him when I was out there."
He makes life-size wood carvings of himself and teammates, and hopes to market them as 3-D FatHeads. "My dad taught me when I was little. He made Christmas cutouts of Santa Claus, Mickey Mouse and stuff like that. When I was a senior, I took it to the next level. I started making wood cutouts. I did one of myself, kind of experimenting. My other linebacker partner painted it. It was a life-size replica. It's like a FatHead in an artistic style way. It came out pretty sweet. Hopefully, from an investment standpoint I'm going to open a little woodshop wherever I move and I'll make them of teammates because I know they have a lot of money to waste."
He's worked out with (and made a wood Fathead of) Ravens fullback Lorenzo Neal. "The first time I met him was my sophomore year and we had the same trainer in Fresno, and I was doing one-on-ones. He was the fullback out of the backfield, and I'd go to check him up and I'd bounce off his body. I never met somebody like that who was a human muscle, pretty much. He's an animated guy as well. He just told me to hit it at full speed. He's seen me play, and he said I wouldn't have a problem. He said hopefully we'll meet up in the hole one of these days."
So, he's a character. I finally got to talk to him late last week, and will hope to talk to him again after he's drafted, since time constraints have prevented me from writing the feature (plus, I'm still waiting for the pictures of the wood FatHeads, dude!)
He's also an extreme hitter, projected as an outside linebacker in a 4-3 (though he's played 4-3 and 3-4 in college, and the Bengals coaching staff moved him inside at the Senior Bowl), and he will overreach tackles on occasion. See, the strategy is to draft Louis Delmas and Zack Follett, and give Tim Ruskell enough kamikaze tackling that he won't notice when we sell B-Russ to the Broncos for a bag of Twizzlers.
Follett is a no-fear motorhead with phasers set to "stun". Watching him play beings to mind Randy Cross' famous quite about Ronnie Lott: "He doesn't care about his own body, so why should he care about yours?" There's a little pass rush there, some power in run support, and a guy who will look for people to hit on special teams. And fans will fall in love with him in the same way they did with Owen Schmitt last year.