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NFL Draft

Miami EDGE Gregory Rousseau On Relationship With Calais Campbell, Expectations For 2020

  • The Draft Network
  • June 11, 2020
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A program with rich history, the Miami Hurricanes have had their years of glory. Most notably the 2001 team that included historic names on both sides of the ball. Recently, the program hasn't lived up to the same type of moniker, but the talent produced will always remain rich. However, the program has suffered a drought when it comes to producing early-round talent along the defensive line.

Vince Wilfork (during the 2004 NFL Draft) was the last defensive lineman from the program who went on to become a first-round selection. Prior to the 2019 season, it seemed as if the absence of early-round talent was poised to continue. That was until edge rusher Gregory Rousseau exploded onto the scene.

Listed at 6-foot-7 and 253 pounds, the breakout redshirt freshman took the ACC by storm in 2019, as he recorded 19.5 tackles for loss and 15.5 sacks. Going on to become the conference Defensive Rookie of the Year, the towering prospect now has monumental expectations to live up to entering his second full season with the program.

Over the summer, I have been interviewing many of the top talent throughout the country. Rousseau was my first sit down conversation of the year and an enjoyable one. Here, I caught up with him to discuss how the Madden video game introduced him to the game of football, his childhood career, a relationship with Calais Campbell, and his expectations for the upcoming season.

Scouts Take on Rousseau: "He exploded onto the scene after the injury last year and caught many by surprise, even the coaches down there. He still has some filling out to do on his frame, but you can't teach his length at 6-foot-7, 255. The great thing about him is that he's still just a baby. He wins mostly off of natural given athletic ability. He can play along either edge and can kick inside during creative personnel packages to rush the passer. If he plays even half as good as he did a year ago, he's an easy top of the first round type of talent, but I'd love to see him add some more pass rush moves to his arsenal and prove that last year wasn't a one time thing." – NFC North scout

The following transcript has been edited for clarity.

Question: There's a lot going on with the pandemic and COVID-19. Obviously you've been away from campus and the football facility, but how have you managed to stay in shape and keep up with your weight training and things along those lines?

Rousseau: I really have been making sure that my eating habits are right. Staying away from fried foods and juice nowadays. Even though I'm away from the team, I still am putting myself through summer conditioning and making sure I keep those same habits. I've been staying active with my personal trainer from high school as well. 

Q: Now, I want to go all the way back to the beginning of your career. How did you first get involved with the game of football?

R: I was seven years old and my brothers bought Madden '05, I think. Ray Lewis was on the cover. Playing that, I learned all of the positions, and I thought like, man, this is real cool. It gave me something to do and I really fell in love with it. It kept my mind off of all of the distractions and stuff. It also gave me something to work on for my future. I learned all of the positions, and all of the players in the league. It also helped me with learning the dynamics of it, from coverages to techniques, and how all of that works. I already had the basics down, but had to implant it into my game on the field.

Q: Let's transition to your high school years. You started your first two years at Coconut Creek and then moved onto Champagnat Catholic for your final two seasons. What I found interesting is that you started out your first two years as a wide receiver and safety, so I have to know. Tell me a little bit about that. 

R: When I got to high school, I wanted to play receiver really bad and just catching touchdowns is something that I've always liked. I always knew that I could be a good defensive end because I played it a little bit my sophomore year. When I started getting offers, I noticed that all of the coaches wanted me to play outside linebacker or defensive end. I was like, yeah, I can do that for sure because I've done it during my earlier years. I knew with my length that I would be a problem for opposing offenses.

Q: What made you want to play defensive end full-time, though? There's a story out there about how Coach Manny Diaz (Miami head football coach) convinced you fully. Take us behind the scenes of that conversation.

R: The first thing that he told me to do was to look up Manny Lawson. He was a former first-round pick of the Bills (2006). I knew he went to N.C. State when coach was there and he told me that we have similar frames walking through the door as freshmen. I looked him up and said, man, I can do this, just like he did. It still goes onto this day though. I'm thankful for having guys like Joe Jackson and Jonathan Garvin alongside me during my first two years to coach me up on how to use and execute my length. I really look up to both of those guys.

Q: Your time spent playing wide receiver and safety, how much did the exposure to those positions help you during your transition to defensive end?

R: Playing receiver, you often work releases. Those same types of finesse moves helped me as a pass rusher. Playing safety helps seeing the defense from a different lense. It helped me understand how much a pass rush can help players back there. Using that knowledge and sentiment helps me understand my importance to help those guys in the back end be as successful as possible. Also, I now have a deeper understanding of the entire operation rather than just my spot as a pass rusher. I try to learn what others are doing on blitzes, so that I can understand the entire purpose and dynamics behind everything. If I'm peeling on a running back and there's a blitzing safety behind me, I want to know why. 

Q: Let's go back to 2018. You fractured your ankle. I know that was a really tough time for you. Only playing in two games, what did you learn from it?

R: I just realized that you always have to find the positives in things. It really hurt me though because you get hurt and everything just keeps on moving like it never happened. Practices and games are still played and go on without you. I understood that everything happens for a reason though. I rehabbed really hard with my trainer, Jeff Ruiz, at Miami. He was really great. I gained 10 pounds and I took my eating habits more seriously and I just focused on next season. Being around my teammates really helped too. They always made me feel like I was still a part of the team.

Q: 19.5 tackles for loss and 15.5 sacks. ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year. You were phenomenal coming off of the injury. Taking me back through your path of last season, the accolades, and how you handled the instant success. 

R: I feel like me getting hurt motivated me. Also, some people don't know, but I wasn't in the starting lineup at the beginning of last season, but I had to keep my head down and keep on working. You can only control what you can control, so I just kept on working hard, and I took everything seriously. 

The season started against Florida and I got a sack. I was like, man, my first ever sack. After that, I just kept getting sack after sack and then the Florida State game happened (recorded four sacks). At that point I told myself that I can really do this and that's where my confidence sky rocketed. I felt like no one could block me. My coaches and teammates all put me in positions to win. 

Q: Coming off of a big year like you had in 2019, the expectations will be much different for you this upcoming season. How are you going about to make sure that you live up to the hype this year?

R: I'm not going to make it more than what it is. I'm not going to worry about my numbers, but I'm going to make sure that I win my race and do my job of winning my one-on-one matchup. If I just focus on doing that, all of the other stuff will take care of itself. 

Q: A common comparison out there for you right now is another great Miami defensive lineman in Calais Campbell. Is that someone you look up to or model your game after stylistically?

R: Definitely. I can play the one, three, five, and nine technique. I actually was watching him on YouTube the other day and his sack tape to see how he makes plays. He's so good at keeping his pad level even though he's so tall, like me. He's definitely someone I look up to. I text him for advise on pass rush moves, how to beat double teams, and stuff like that. He's definitely a good person to have in my life and I'm really thankful for that.

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