Through these last three months of interviewing draft prospects during Senior Bowl Week, Combine Week and on the phone for this pre-draft series on the BN Blitz Blog, I don't think I've run across anyone like Eric Striker. The Oklahoma linebacker is as charismatic, energetic and honest as they come, beyond that scathing Snapchat video message in response the racist frat on campus.
That's why he's the Most Interesting Man at his position. In addition to today's linebacker story, here are a few other nuggets from our half-hour conversation.
Don't be surprised if the Bills draft Striker or a linebacker like Striker at some point in the draft. He's the brand of linebacker General Manager Doug Whaley said you have to covet in the AFC East: light, athletic, a playmaker.
On how he fits into a NFL defense: “I think the biggest question for me is what position I play and where do I fit? I’m a small guy at outside linebacker but can blitz like one—exceptional at blitzing. Getting off the ball is the best part of my game but, it’s like, my size… But I’ll leave that to the NFL. I’m willing to play anything. As a young guy, you’re out to prove yourself anyway. Once I can show what I can to help a team win, then I think everything will work itself out.”
“I feel I can play pretty much any linebacker position. It’s what the coaches think is best, where I can help the team.”
On today's LB needing to be lighter: "That is true. The game is switching. It’s spread out. They try to isolate guys and get guys in mismatches. You need an athletic linebacker who can stick a tight end or a running back.”
On handling a lot mentally in OU's defense: “We had so many different personnel groups and so many different calls and then a guy like me who played a little bit of everything, my role would switch up time to time. So I had to remember the install that week and, obviously, on third and long we have so many blitz packages that I had to switch up positions. So I have to remember my responsibilities sometimes. That was probably the hardest thing.”
On Buffalo's defense changing so much pre-snap: “Listen, listen. Coach Mike (Stoops), sometimes, we’d be like ‘Coach Mike, we need to call!’ So sometimes, we’d have a call we’d just go with. … I’m prepared for it. He’ll switch it up as well too and say, ‘OK, do that, do that.’ So I’m really used to that. Sometimes, we’d have a call on, the quarterback would (change to the other side) and we’d run the opposite call. The opposite blitz from the other side. So I’ve experienced that.”
On fighting racism on campus: "Racism like that makes no sense to me. So I thought as football players we should take a stand and I had my whole team behind me. They did it like I thought they would—right behind me. It was in the face of racism—you try to stand up and bring a positive change on campus and even around the country and the world. I had guys hit me up from other schools, I had students hit me up on my email saying I inspired them. I inspired a lot of people. So it worked out.”
On seeing changes on campus: “Oh man. And I’ll tell you what, when you’re in Oklahoma, a lot of these kids here—I’m from a big city, very diverse, Tampa, Fla., you run into people from all walks of life — but you come to Oklahoma and there’s mostly small towns here. Oklahoma City is the biggest city there. Other than that, everything is a small town. A lot of people have seen many one black guy, one Hispanic guy or mostly no black people in their neighborhood or school so they don’t get a chance to see other cultures and be around other people. A guy like me, from a big city, I get to know these people from the jump. Not saying that’s an excuse because it’s not an excuse. These guys are old enough to know right from wrong. But I think we touched a lot of people and more athletes are into student life and not being so excluded from everything on campus.”
On being a leader: “I think the leadership thing happened naturally, even in middle school and high school. People would say ‘Strike, you’re not like most people. You kind of do your own thing.’ People naturally gravitate toward you; they see you’re a natural leader and follow you. It just happens naturally. I’ve always kind of done my own thing. ... Sometimes in high school you struggle with who you are, you see a group of people and say ‘I want to be like that.’ And you follow people you shouldn’t follow. See, I’m going to be who I am regardless. So I think that’s how I became a leader. People saw me doing my own thing. It was different than everybody else and it just happened that way.
“Sagging your pants was cool back when I was in high school, but I didn’t sag my pants! I didn’t care. And we could talk about the N-word. Guys say it all the time, but I’m not going to do it. That type of thing."
On cutting against the grain: “What was cool to the majority, I didn’t think was cool. In high school, everybody’s cool until the report card comes out. Some guys would get like a ‘D’ in Reading, so everything’s cool until that report card comes out. ... I did my own thing and I think people saw that. I was never afraid at a young age to be who I was.”