This year’s EDGE class possesses several high-end talents that are projected to be drafted in the first round, and there are plenty of great pass rushers with the potential to make a huge impact at the next level in the later rounds, as well. If you’re compiling a list of diamond-in-the-rough prospects that can get after the quarterback, Western Michigan's Ali Fayad deservesyour attention. An ascending prospect that experienced a career-best season in 2021, Fayad recently spoke exclusively with The Draft Network about his incredibly impressive 13-sack season, what makes him a successful pass rusher, why competing at Western Michigan helped prepare him for the next level, and so much more. JM: You exploded in 2021 with a career-high 13 sacks. You racked up 18 tackles for loss. You leave Western Michigan with 33.5 sacks and 56.5 tackles for loss to your name. What a year and collegiate career it was for you. What changed for you during your fifth-year senior season? AF: I would point to my preparation and overall approach to the game, both on and off the field. I made strict changes to my diet and enjoyed a very productive offseason overall. My mentality toward my days changed completely. I used every day as a day to get better. You can’t get back the days of the past. I did extra stretches. I watched extra film. I spent extra time with my coaches. I flew across the country and worked with some of the best coaches around. I took the next step toward being a professional. JM: It paid off for you in a major way. You appeared in just four games in 2020 partially due to an injury and mostly due to the pandemic-shortened season. How did those experiences impact the way you approach the game? AF: That was huge. That was the first time I’ve ever been sidelined by an injury. I missed two games with a calf injury in November of 2020. That really changed my whole approach. The things that are given to me can be taken away in a moment’s notice. That’s the lesson I learned. It honestly changed my entire mentality. I started journaling and taking better care of my mental health. I came closer to achieving my goals. I became a lot more goal-oriented. Even if I was goal-oriented before, I took it to the next level. I wanted to be more assertive and efficient. Playing just four of six games in 2020 definitely made me more of a professional. I had to capitalize on my opportunities. When that happened, I actually taped a “MAC” logo and an “NFL” logo above the wall in my bedroom apartment. Everybody on this planet has a subconscious. Everybody thinks negatively at times. It’s human nature. Anytime I suffered a setback, I would look at those two logos above my bed and ask myself, “How bad do you really want it, Ali?” I dragged myself out of bed and spent more time working towards my goals. I’ve always been a hard worker, but I took it to another level. It was about the extra effort that kept me going. JM: We enjoy hearing about your motivational tactics. It certainly worked for you. How would you describe your pass rush arsenal? It obviously took a step forward in 2021. AF: I’m not just a speed guy. I’m a power guy, too. I have hands and counter moves for everything. I always have something new for somebody else, as I like to say. If I’m always rushing to get four yards behind the offensive tackle and he beats me to the spot, then I can counter back inside. I can beat him straight off the edge with my speed as well. If he oversteps me, I can use a spin move. I come at you from all different angles. I have a full arsenal. I have a toolbox of pass rush moves, man. I’ll do anything that has to be done as a pass rusher. I’m gonna get to the quarterback. I love using all kinds of moves. JM: You rushed a lot from both a two-point and three-point stance. What’s your personal preference? AF: I really don’t have a preference. I just love getting after the quarterback at the end of the day. I love rushing the passer. I can rush from a two or three-point stance. I played everywhere at Western Michigan. I played the 5-technique, 3-technique, and 1-technique. It doesn’t matter to me. JM: You were so versatile. Is there a pass rusher in the NFL that you’d love to sit down with and learn from? AF: That’s such a tough question. I can’t pick just one (laughs). I have to pick two guys. Von Miller has been my guy since day one. He’s had so much success for such a long time. I’m trying to achieve that sort of longevity. T.J. Watt would be my other pick. For somebody to go and tie the single-season sack record like he did in 2021, that’s special right there. It’s an unbelievable accomplishment. He did that while fighting through some injuries. It’s astounding. Both of those guys are unbelievable athletes, people, and pass rushers. I would honestly love to pick both of their brains and discuss what goes into their weekly preparations while talking about their pass-rush arsenals and decision-making processes. JM: Those are two great players. You talked about sticking that “MAC” sticker above your bedroom wall. It’s inevitable that some analysts will refer to you as a “small-school prospect” throughout this process. How do you typically address the small school question? AF: It is what it is. I played at Western Michigan and some people consider that to be a small school. There’s nothing to address in my opinion. My film and production speak for themselves. I went to the Shrine Bowl a few weeks ago and competed against players from the Power 5. I went out there and proved that just because I went to a small school, it doesn’t mean I don’t have the talent to compete with players from bigger programs. I had a great week at the Shrine Bowl. I barely lost any one-vs-one reps out there. I was consistently winning and beating the offensive tackles in attendance. I’m not much of a talker. My film speaks for itself. JM: What was your experience like at the East-West Shrine Game? AF: It was amazing. It was wonderful to meet so many NFL coaches and scouts. I was out there receiving some NFL-level coaching. I enjoyed proving that I could step it up and dominate that type of competition. I proved that I wasn’t below any “big school prospects” or anything like that. I relished the opportunity to practice and compete against that level of competition. JM: It was a huge showcase for you. Did you meet with many teams in attendance? How did those meetings go in your opinion? AF: I met with almost every single team. I thought every conversation went well. It all felt mostly similar. Teams wanted to know about my background and whatnot. They had their standard list of questions to ask. We discussed my passion for the game. I wouldn’t say there was one conversation or team that went better than the others. I felt good about every conversation. It was all on a similar wavelength. We broke the ice and became familiar with one another. It was a great experience. JM: I’ve really appreciated your time today. Why should a team use one of their draft picks on Ali Fayad? AF: A team should draft Ali Fayad because I’m more than just the hardest worker in the room and in the draft. I’m the best quarterback hunter in the draft, period. I’m the hungriest and I’m willing to go deeper than anybody else.
- Aug 12, 2022
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