A couple of weeks ago, I wrote an article about one of the Seahawks' draft picks, Appalachian State safety Mark LeGree. Yesterday, he was kind enough to give FieldGulls an interview. If you read the previous article, you know that I am excited about the skills that LeGree has and the potential contributions he can make for Seattle's secondary, but it was interesting to actually talk to him first-hand and hear his thoughts on coming to Seattle, the draft process, and the lockout, among other things.
The transcript of the interview is after the jump.
Jacson: First off, do you prefer to go by "Dre"?
LeGree: I go by "Mark" with football and with my professional side but I've been called "Dre" by my family since I was real little.
Jacson: Fair enough. So Mark, what were your expectations leading up to the draft, in terms of where you were projected to go and which teams were the most interested?
LeGree: My agent and most people I talked to told me I was projected to go 5th to 7th round. I had spent more time talking to a few teams -- the Ravens and Seahawks were the two who seemed the most interested.
Jacson: And when Seattle drafted you, how did you find out?
LeGree: I got a call a couple minutes before the pick was announced. I had just been sitting there staring at my phone like "Is this gonna happen?" and I had City Caller ID so when I saw it was call from Washington State I knew it was the Seahawks and ran into the living room and told everyone "This is it."
Jacson: Who were you with?
LeGree: I was with a small group of family and friends.
Jacson: So who actually called you and what did they say to you?
LeGree: John Schneider was actually the first person I talked to then Coach Carroll, then one of the scouts and there might have been one other person too, it was kind of crazy. Basically they just told me they were excited to have me and Coach Carroll said he was hoping my interceptions would transfer to the NFL.
Jacson: Have you ever been to Seattle?
LeGree: Nope. I've heard great things though. I hear about the coffee, music, food. Seafood and that stuff. And the weather (laughing).
Jacson: Yeah, the weather's not as bad as you think.
LeGree: No, I heard the summers there are great.
Jacson: So, have you talked to anyone on the Seahawks roster since the draft?
LeGree: No, not yet. My agent said that players that are already in the league can be bitter, cuz, you know, we're basically coming in as rookies to try and take some of their jobs. I got to talk with Kris Durham though, so that was cool. We just chatted a bit about workouts and stuff but, no, I haven't talked to anyone actually on the team, but I'd like to.
Jacson: You're coming from Appalachian State where you excelled. After going through the combine and your workouts for teams, do you still feel like there are questions you have to answer about your abilities?
LeGree: I'm confident in my skills but I think a lot of people questioned my speed. I mean, I'm glad that some of my highlights have made it out there so that people can see my game speed. Also, when I went to the combine and ran one of the fastest 40s, you know, of all the safeties there, that shut a lot of the guys' mouths that weren't sure I was fast enough.
Jacson: Now that you've been drafted, what particular skills besides that speed do you see yourself bringing to the Seahawks?
LeGree: I think my character, mostly. I've always been a team player wherever I've been and I think I'm able to fit in with guys real well. But at the same time, I'm a leader you know, and I'm not afraid to make checks on the field. You know, just competing, working hard, being a presence in the weight room.
Jacson: You're coming from a smaller school; what changes are you expecting in going from an FCS program to the NFL? Do you expect your talent to transfer to the League?
LeGree: Well, I had to make that adjustment, you know, going from high school to college and seeing how much bigger and faster the game is at that level, but I made the adjustment there. In the NFL, I know that differential is going to be three times as big, but I think I can make the leap. Also, one thing that will be different is in college, once you earn that starting spot, you can kind of chill because you know you're the starter but in the NFL I'm going to have to be constantly competing to prove that I deserve that spot.
Jacson: You've said before that you can play the single-high safety position. Is that something you feel confident doing in the NFL?
LeGree: Yeah, definitely. I played single-high a lot as a Sophomore and Junior. I have a lot of confidence in my range and ball skills, you know, and that's where a lot of my interceptions came from.
Jacson: Your defensive backs coach at Appalachian State, Scot Sloan, told our website that there was a running joke that you never got to blitz...
LeGree: (Laughing) Yeah, that was very true. I only got like three or four blitzes my whole career. I got one sack in college and it wasn't even on a blitz (laughing).
Jacson: Well, the Seahawks were pretty fond of blitzing Lawyer Milloy last season, so maybe we'll get a chance to see you coming across the line of scrimmage.
LeGree: I hope so. I want to prove I can do more than just pick off the ball.
Jacson: This is kind of an interesting time to be coming into the League. Are you following the developments in the labor negotiations? What are your thoughts on the lockout and how it's affecting you?
LeGree: I don't really follow it too much. I let my agent keep me posted on what's going on. I keep hearing June 3rd, June 3rd, so I'm waiting 'til then to see what happens but I don't really know what's happening because I'm not one of the guys in that room. It's kinda weird though, you know, after I got drafted there was that emotional high but after that wore off I was right back here just kind of sitting around and working out at school and stuff -- just being a regular guy. I had to get a job to pay my bills while I wait.
Jacson: That's a little strange, right? I mean, here you are, you did it, you made it as far as getting drafted by an NFL team, but you're having to work a regular job instead of signing a big-league contract. What kind of work are you doing?
LeGree: I'm working for a general contractor. I worked for him last summer. I don't really have any construction skills (laughing), it's more like a favor they're doing for me, but I just mostly do easy stuff like cleaning and organizing. They don't want me to get hurt.
Jacson: That's such an interesting thought. Do you have an expected arrival date in Seattle?
LeGree: Not yet but I'd like to get up there as soon as I can start working with the coaches and stuff. Hopefully that happens soon.
Jacson: I think we're all on the same page there. Mark, thank you so much for your time. I think Field Gulls' readers will be excited to hear your thoughts. Welcome to Seattle.
LeGree: Thank you.
LeGree's answered all of the questions very calmly and succinctly, which made for an natural-feeling conversation. He struck me as very grounded and willing to put in work. From his steady tone, it was easy, initially, for me to miss out on how remarkable some of the things he was saying truly were. In that vein, a few things he mentioned in the interview really stood out to me.
One of the noteworthy things he commented on was the question about his raw ability since he played at a smaller college. When he showed up at the combine, however, he was in the Top-10 of his positional group in nearly every testing category. LeGree pointed to his speed, and rightfully so, as his 4.56 40 was 2nd best among safeties at the combine, but what he didn't mention were his other measurables. His 21 reps on the bench press also ranked second and he scored well in the vertical jump (7th), broad jump (4th), 3-cone drill (2nd), and shuttle drill (3rd). He seemed adamant about proving he was fast enough -- adamant enough to skip over the rest of his stellar combine performance in the interview.
Another thing that jumped out was his comment that current NFLers can be bitter towards rookies and, consequently, he hasn't felt compelled to reach out to anyone on the team yet. It makes sense, objectively, because there are only so many spots on a final roster and for a rookie to make it means that someone who previously held that spot has to be removed via trade, free agency, or straight up release. It's just that I don't ever remember hearing a player come out and say that's how it is. Either way, he repeatedly mentioned his willingness to compete for (and keep) a starting spot, so I'm sure that mindset appealed to Pete Carroll.
The last big thing that leaps out at me from our conversation was LeGree's response to the current labor situation. I've assumed that the lockout has been a major inconvenience for players who are already in the NFL, but I've long been curious as to how it's affecting would-be rookies. I won't lie, I was a little surprised to hear that he's staying home and working a nine-to-five construction job a month after being drafted by an NFL team. I figured getting that call on draft weekend meant the start of a fairy tale run, at least for a period of time, but it sounds like it's been anything but for LeGree.
Overall, "Shaft" LeGree seemed very down-to-earth, despite his obvious big-man-on-campus stature at App St. His combine numbers, along with what game film I've watched, makes me believe that he has a legitimate shot at making his way on to the field for meaningful minutes as a rookie. If so, he could be a huge boon to a shallow defensive backfield and his versatility could prove to be a major asset to Seattle's oft-changing defensive personnel groups.
So feel free, Field Gullers, to chime in with your thoughts on the interview.