On the Rise: An Interview with Derek Dennis
With the NFL draft closing in, teams are finalizing their draft boards and wrapping up their pro day and prospect visits. Many of the big names come to mind when it comes to draft day, but it is the players in the later rounds that can make a difference in the NFL. When it comes to being 6’5″ and 328 lbs. and being one of the more athletic offensive lineman in the NFL draft, teams will find you. Temple Owl , Derek Dennis, has slowly made his name known and turned himself into a late round commodity.
Born in Queens, New York, Dennis started 42 of the 52 games for the Owls and started every offensive line position except center. The prep basketball star found a love for the game of football at Trinity-Pawling Prep and ended up at Temple, having a very succesful football career. In August, Dennis graduated with a bachelor’s degree in broadcast journalism and stayed at school as a graduate student while prepping for the draft and working out for Temple Pro Day.
Invited to the East/West Shrine game, Dennis has put himself in prime position to have his name called in April’s NFL Draft. Look for Dennis these coming weeks and follow Dennis on Twitter towards his journey to the NFL.
First of all, how is your preparation going for the draft?
I think my draft prep is going great. I couldn’t have asked for a better training facility than Northstar Sports . It’s such a great atmosphere and I have done nothing but improve since I began working out there.
Who was your biggest influence on you as a person growing up?
My biggest influence would have to be my parents, especially my mother. Not many kids are fortunate to grow up with both parents. They have done a great job with me. I wouldn’t be where I am today without their love and support.
Can you tell us about your recruiting process and how you got to Temple?
Long story short, I was a basketball star coming out of Peekskill High. I didn’t have the grades I wanted to be able to attend a good University and I didn’t think public school was preparing me enough for college so I decided to head to Trinity-Pawling Prep for athletic and academic reasons. At T-P, I got to play for Coach Dave Corratti and he basically taught me the game of football, got schools to come recruit me, and Temple just felt like the right choice. It had that city feel that I loved and I believed in what Coach Al Golden was preaching.
You were a four-year starter at Temple. What did your experience at Temple mean to you?
It meant the world to me because it helped me mature on and off the field very quickly. College is where boys become men and I definitely went through that transformation at Temple. I wouldn’t trade that experience for the world.
How important was it to you to get your degree in Broadcast Journalism before you started on your NFL journey?
It was my primary goal when I got to college. My education was important because I wanted to be the first in my family to graduate from college and though it was tough I accomplished my main goal. My parents made it very clear from day one. It was finish college or go to the army and you see what I picked.
When did it occur to you that you might have a shot at the next level?
It really didn’t hit me until prior to Senior year (at Temple) when I began receiving phone calls and seeing my name pop up all over the internet. It was just a great feeling and gave me extreme motivation going into my final campaign. I was honored.
What did it mean to you to be invited to the 2011 East-West Shrine Game and what did you gather from that game?
It was a great sense of accomplishment to be considered one of the top senior college players in the country and an honor. That game was about more than football. Really gave me a perspective on life and to be grateful that I was even blessed enough to do what I do. On the playing side, I think I just showed I belonged out there with guys who came from bigger conferences.
You have some important people who have been in the NFL who have attachments to you, Dexter Coakley (Cousin), Tre Johnson (Temple Alum) and Charles Spencer (NFL). How have each helped you in your development?
They all have been a big help in this entire process. They are all there to lend advice and guide me on what to expect and how to handle the changes my life will make. Tre (Johnson) and Charles (Spencer) especially because they are both O-lineman who grew up where I’m from and have been through the same things I’m experiencing now. They give great insight because we are all basically the same.
All 32 NFL teams were at the Temple Pro Day. How important was that day for you?
It was the biggest day of my life to date. I didn’t have the opportunity to go to the NFL Combine so my pro day was like judgement day. But like I said, I had my parents and trainers Jerry (North) and Charles (Spencer) there rooting me on and they got me so prepared. I thank them so much. The fact that every team came to watch me and my teammates work out is just a testament to what we did with that program and how far we have all come as men and football players. It’s just a great blessing.
Have any teams showed some particular interest in you?
I have heard a number of teams are interested in me. I have had contact with Philadelphia, Baltimore, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh.
What position do you feel most comfortable at - offensive tackle or guard?
I am comfortable at any position. I can play them all and I’m a fast learner.
What do you feel are your strengths and weaknesses as a player?
I am physical, strong, aggressive, smart, athletic and very coachable. I don’t think I have any real weaknesses just technique flaws that are fixable.
What is your mind-set going into the NFL draft?
That whatever opportunity presents itself I’m ready to attack and get after it. Hopefully I hear my name called and, if so, I will be extremely grateful and blessed.
A big thanks goes out to Derek Dennis for taking some time out for us and we wish him nothing but the best in the upcoming NFL Draft.
You can follow Dennis and send some words of encouragement through his Twitter account.