Q: Were you surprised that it was the Patriots who called your name and that high?
JM: I definitely was surprised. This is a winning organization and even for them to have a pick this high really surprised me. I’m just overwhelmed and I’m ready to get to New England and play for a great coach and a great team.
Q: Did you have any inclination at all that the Patriots were interested in you?
JM: I had a great visit when I came down there. The coaches and I sat down and talked football for a long time. Like I said, I just had a great visit and I felt like we clicked. I’m just excited, man, I just can’t even explain right now. I just got drafted and I’m just excited. I’m pretty much speechless.
Q: Usually when players think about getting drafted, they think about getting drafted by teams that are rebuilding or not very good. What does it mean to you to come to a team that has been in Super Bowls?
JM: You hit the nail on the head. It’s like a dream come true pretty much. You don’t expect a team that only lost one game last year to have a top 10 pick, but at the same time, they were winning before me and they would be winning even if I’m not there, so I just want to come in and make a contribution and learn from some of the greats at the position.
Q: Given the fact that this team has had such a great history of linebacker play recently, what does it mean to you to be joining that corps?
JM: I can’t help but to be good as long as I listen and take notes and learn from a great coach and a great coaching staff and great guys like Junior Seau and Tedy Bruschi and all those guys. I’m just going to be like a sponge and try to take as much in as possible.
Q: Are there guys in the NFL right now who you try to model your game after?
JM: Not at all. I just try to be Jerod Mayo. At the end of the day, I think after playing with [New England] and learning from the coaches here that I will be a good linebacker and you’ll be asking another linebacker about that question. I’m just excited to get there. I feel like, learning from these guys, these are the best. Junior Seau’s a Pro Bowl guy, a Hall of Fame guy. I’m just going to be a sponge and learn from him and hopefully I can become just as good as he is.
Q: If someone has only seen your statistics, is there something they would be missing? What are some of the intangibles you bring to the field?
JM: I feel like I bring a winning nature. The Patriots already have a winning nature. I feel like I bring a work ethic. They already have that as well. You can’t really bring too much to a team that only lost one game in a season. I’m just excited to be in the position that I am and to be able to learn from some of the greats in the game.
Q: Do you feel you’re better suited to play outside or inside?
JM: I don’t have a preference at all. Wherever coach wants to put me, pretty much. I can learn from a couple of the best outside linebackers or I can learn from a couple of the best inside linebackers. So wherever coach wants me to play, I’m willing to play. Like you said, I’ve played all three spots. We even have a 3-4 package in our system at Tennessee and I feel the transition won’t be a problem, but like I said earlier, I am just going to be as sponge and learn from those guys.
Q: You mentioned there was 3-4 package at Tennessee. Where did you play in that package and how often did you guys use that package?
JM: To be honest, I played the inside guy and the outside guy. I know, you’re going to say, “this guy is a versatile guy.” I was fortunate enough to be able to play the outside and the inside. Like I said, wherever coach wants to put me, that’s where I’m willing to play.
Q: As you thought about the draft and who might take you, and if you went to a team that was not as good as this one, did you have a different idea of what your impact would be?
JM: To be honest, my mindset was set on – any team I go to I want to make a contribution, whether it be starting linebacker or on special teams. Whether it be a 1- team or anything like that, I want to make a contribution somehow. The Patriots, they pretty much have their team set in stone. These guys only lost one game last year, I just want to come in and make a contribution whether it’s on special teams or as a starter.
Q: Coach talked about the fact that you had faced the best competition in the SEC. Can you talk about how that helped you prepare for the NFL?
JM: Just having SEC pride… that’s pretty much the minor leagues for the NFL. At the same time, the NFL is a whole new game. The game speed changes, everybody’s good. It’s more of a mental thing I think. Like I said, I’m just going to be a sponge and try to learn form those guys and see how they study film and study tendencies and things like that. Hopefully it won’t be a major adjustment for me.
Q: Over the last couple of years, what kind of preconceived ideas did you have or do you have about the Patriots and that group of linebackers in particular?
JM: That they play hard. They’re always making plays and that they’re winners. They win a lot of games, ever since I’ve been watching those guys. Coach Belichick is great. The 3-4 defense, those guys put a lot of pressure on offenses and that’s the type of defense that I like to play in.
Q: You said a minute ago that you just want to come in and make a contribution. How confident are you that you can come in and make an impact your first year?
JM: To be honest, I’m really confident. When people hear contribution, they think, “Well, this guy is going to come in and get Defensive Rookie of the Year,” And things like that. That’s a goal of mine, but at the same time, you can make a contribution on special teams. That’s one-third of the game. If that’s the case, then that’s the case. If I come in and do become a starter and I want to make a contribution there, that’s a way to go. Any part of the game, any aspect of the game that the coaches want me to play, I feel like I can succeed in.
Q: Coach Belichick said that you were one of the higher rated linebackers on their board in a while and the Patriots, under Coach Belichick, had never drafted a linebacker higher than the fifth round. How does that make you feel that they used a first-round pick, No. 10, on you?
JM: It makes me feel great. He’s a great coach, a Hall of Fame coach. Just to have a compliment like that come from a guy like that, it’s just means the world to me and I can’t wait to get up there in New England and just learn from him, study the game with him and become a great player.
Q: When you made your trip here to New England, what struck you about the organization? I’m assuming you’ve been to other places as well. What was different about the Patriots? What impressed you about the Patriots?
JM: To be honest with you, I had 11 visits during this whole process and there wasn’t an atmosphere that you felt the winning tradition like you did when you walked into the building with the Patriots. I’m not sure if that’s because I watch all of their games, but it was just in my mind. I felt the vibe from the coaches and just from everybody, everybody from [Director of Scouting Administration] Nancy [Meier], I just felt this was a winning organization and I’m just happy to be here.
Q: Coach Belichick has been noted for taking rookies in and pushing them a little bit mentally. Tell us a little bit about what he talked to you about and maybe any mental games he might have played with you.
JM: I wouldn’t say he played any games with me or anything like that. He just told me, “The draft is a crazy thing and you never know what’s going to happen. We would love for you to be a Patriot, but we just don’t know what’s going to happen. If it does happen, then it’ll be a good experience for you.” If it didn’t happen, then he thought I’d be a good player somewhere else. I’m just happy to be a Patriot. I’m just ready to get up there.
Q: I know where your thoughts are now that you’ve been drafted by this team, but when you were growing up what pro football team did you follow? Which players did you try to emulate?
JM: To be honest, growing up in the Hampton, Virginia area, we watched the Washington Redskins and then I started watching Baltimore. They had a great defense. These past few years, the Patriots’ defense has been very stout. I feel like I can be a part of this defense and make contributions. Let me ask you guys a question. What headlines am I going to get about the Mayo last name? What can I expect from you guys? I’ve heard a lot of them, but I was just trying to see what can I expect.
Q: What’s the best one that you’ve seen?
JM: I’ve heard a lot, but ‘Hold the Mayo’ is always going to be the No. 1 thing, but that’s kind of getting played out now. I’m trying to see what you guys are going to throw at me now that I’m coming there.
Q: (Pause) Extra Mayo? How about that?
JM: Oh, so everybody goes quiet now?
Q: Where were you when you got the phone call? Who called you? Where were you? Did you have a draft party with friends and family?
JM: Actually, the plan was to do yard work. I was in the back yard picking up leaves. I know this time of the year, you don’t expect to see leaves, but we have leaves in our backyard. I was picking up leaves with my mom and I couldn’t do it any more after one bag. I was sitting on the porch, just sitting there thinking and Coach Belichick called me. I was very excited. I had a little get together, a little cookout, but nothing big.
Q: Where else did you visit?
JM: There was 11 of them. I might miss a couple, but I’ll give you some. The Bills. Detroit. Pittsburgh. Cleveland. Atlanta. St Louis. Dallas. Somebody help me out.
Q: The Jets?
JM: Yeah, the Jets. I don’t remember. It seems like forever ago. It’s somewhere on the Internet, I promise. Google it.
Q: Where did you think you would wind up?
JM: To be honest, I wasn’t really sure. Wherever I was going to end up, I felt like I was going to go in there and be a sponge. I was just fortunate to come to a program that’s already established with a winning tradition. I wasn’t really sure. I was just waiting to hear my name called.
Q: One reason that Belichick hasn’t draft linebackers this early is because they say that the defense is very hard to learn. Did you see any schemes at all and did he bring that up at all? Maybe you were a little different and you could take it on maybe earlier than most?
JM: No, as a matter of fact, when I went up there for my visit, we sat down and went over a couple of plays, adjustments, things like that. Then, they took it off the board and had me draw the plays back up with adjustments. I feel pretty confident in my skills to learn systems and things like that, but they taught me the very basic plays. I’m expecting it to get a lot more difficult. But at the same time, I feel like learning from the great guys that they have in that linebackers’ room that I’ll be able to catch on pretty fast.
Q: How much do you enjoy watching film?
JM: Oh, I love watching film. I’m always trying to get a competitive edge whether it’s in the film room or in the weight room, anywhere. I’m always trying to become a better football player. That’s just me.
Q: Did it catch you off guard that you went 10th overall today?
JM: Like I said, I came into today with no expectations. I was hoping for the best and expecting the worst. I had no expectations. I wouldn’t say that I knew, but I was hoping it would be somewhere in the first, but I just didn’t know where.