OK, so I'm not quite as good looking as Erin Andrews or Rachel Nichols, but I'm really starting to get the hang of interviewing professional athletes.
After getting the opportunity to interview Anthony Herrera two weeks ago, I was able to
dupe another PR firm get some time to sit down with Toby Gerhart while he signed autographs in Burnsville this afternoon. Before I get to the Q&A, here are some of the things I learned about Gerhart today:
- He's a good multi-tasker. There was a pretty long line for autographs while I sat at the table with him, so he signed in between questions to make sure everyone got one before the event ended.
- He's accountable. I was planning on bringing up the fumbling, but he beat me to it and took full responsibility.
- He heard about Childress' firing just like we did.
- He thinks his former teammate Andrew Luck should go pro next year.
- I learned that if I ever sit next to him again, I better do some more curls beforehand. Dude's got some huge arms.
Here's what Gerhart had to say:
Daily Norseman: You've had a pretty eventful rookie season here in Minnesota to say the least. Of course that all came to a head yesterday with the firing of Brad Childress. It sounds like a lot of players heard about it on Twitter or ESPN before anything else--how did you hear about it, and how surprised were you to hear the news?
Toby Gerhart: Yeah, it was news to us. I found out how everyone else found out. We were sitting there eating breakfast in the kitchen, and it crossed the bottom of the screen on the ticker that he had been fired. We came into our team meeting about an hour later and Zygi [Wilf] came in and talked to the team. Then Coach Frazier came in and talked to the team and basically said we need to come back on Wednesday ready to go.
DN: How do you and the rest of the team plan to move forward with Leslie Frazier? Should fans expect to see a different game plan on Sunday in Washington?
TG: How we move forward is what Coach talked about in our meeting on Monday, and that's to forget the past. We have six games left to go out and be united. He said on Monday that we need to come back Wednesday ready to work, to come back as a team that's united, that's not going to fracture. Just finish the season hard, play for pride, play for each other, play for respect. We're just gonna go out and try to win these next six games.
DN: So how do you go out and try to win these next six games? In your mind, what's the biggest change you need to make both individually and as a team to turn things around?
TG: I definitely think it applies both individually and as a team. The main thing is we need to execute better. You know, me personally, I can't put the ball on the ground. That was a critical mistake in the last game. We need to eliminate the mistakes. Something like missing a block, whether it's the timing or just not doing the right technique. It's affecting the whole team, and it seems like everyone takes their turn making the mistakes. Coach also said in the meeting that everybody just needs to look at themselves first before anyone starts pointing and blaming. Take a self-inventory, do what you need to do to get better, and come back united, ready to work. Like I said, focus on winning these next six games.
DN: Last year at this time you were in California. How are you handling the Minnesota cold in your rookie year?
TG: Well the weather's not bad yet! I did get my car stuck for a bit the other Saturday when we had that snow, but otherwise the cold doesn't bother me too much.
DN: Besides the couple of hiccups that you mentioned earlier, it seems like you're getting more and more comfortable with the offense and taking on more responsibilities with each game. You've really started to grow into your role on third downs. What has the learning curve been like as a rookie, and what has been the toughest thing to pick up in the NFL compared to college?
TG: The blitz pickups and the protections. The blitzes aren't necessarily more complicated--I mean some teams you play are more complicated like the Jets, but everything kind of changes on the fly. In college, we'd call out the protection and I'd come out of the huddle knowing I got the Mike [middle] backer wherever he goes. Here you come out and it could be the same protection and I could start out having the Mike linebacker. But then someone can shift, the center can point, and I have to be on the same page knowing that they're going to block him and now I gotta watch the backside corner. Just learning on the fly, trying to get on the same page as the offensive line and the quarterback has been the toughest thing.
DN: How much have you learned from playing behind Adrian Peterson? Have you learned the most from him or have their been other veterans and coaches that have taught you a lot since you've joined the team?
TG: I've definitely learned from Coach EB [Running Backs Coach Eric Bieniemy]. He's an in-your-face, loud, intense guy. I've learned a ton from him but Adrian has been great as well. Starting the first day of camp, you hear all these horror stories as a rookie that the veterans aren't going to help you or steer you in the wrong direction. Here, it was the exact opposite. Since the first day, if I made a mistake, it was "you might want to start doing your footwork this way" or "make sure you keep your head up when you block that backer". Different things like that. It's really helped me understand the scheme and not get down on myself when I do mess up. Overall, it's been positive.
DN: So have you received any of the stereotypical rookie hazing, like being tied to the goalposts in training camp or anything like that? Or have the guys been pretty light on you?
TG: No, they're really light on me. I've carried the pads once or twice, and each and every day in the meeting room I've gotta bring Gatorades along with snacks to the afternoon meetings. I'm responsible for cleaning the room up, wiping and desanitizing the whole room when it's done. Picking up lunches when we travel has probably been my biggest task, but nothing like Dez Bryant when he got stuck with a $35,000 tab or anything like that.
DN: Well I think Dez kind of earned that one.
TG: [Laughs] Yeah, well they've been good to me.
[Right after that question, a guy in a Chester Cheetah costume (I guess Cheetos was doing a promotion too) came up to Toby and gave him a snack bag of Cheetos. It was signed "To Toby...Chester". We all got a good kick out of that.]
DN: With the 3-7 record, some Viking fans are starting to take a peek at the 2011 NFL Draft. The name that keeps getting brought up the most is your old teammate at Stanford, Andrew Luck. Do you think he'll leave early for the draft?
TG: I really don't know. Every time I try to ask him about it he just blows it off, laughs about it and says he's just gonna focus on the rest of this season. But he's a heck of a quarterback. Me personally, being selfish I think he should. He's a great player and I think he's ready. He's definitely the top quarterback in the nation so I'd like to see him leave.
DN: So have you started game planning for the Redskins? Are there any particular players on Washington's defense that you need to especially be aware of on blitz protection?
TG: Honestly, I haven't really looked at them yet. We'll get back tomorrow, which will be our first day back, and we'll game plan and go over their personnel. So if you ask me that tomorrow I could tell you everybody, but as of today it's our day off and we're still kind of recuperating after last week's loss.
DN: Well I'll let you get back and focus on all the signing. I appreciate your time. Thanks for letting me stop out and best of luck to you and the team the rest of the season.
TG: Thank you very much, I appreciate it.
While Mr. Gerhart wasn't quite as big of a pitch man as teammate Anthony Herrera was when I interviewed him, it should be noted that the interview was made possible by Pepsi MAX. The Pepsi MAX Rookie can series is part of the Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Week/Year program, which allows fans to vote each week and at the end of the season for the best rookie in the league at www.pepsimax.com/facebook or www.NFL.com/rookie. As the official soft drink of the NFL and as part of the program, Pepsi MAX is not only honoring 14 different NFL rookies on the cans (including Gerhart of course), but is giving fans the chance to win a trip to North Texas to attend Super Bowl XLV and all the festivities leading up to it, where they will announce the 2010 Rookie of the Year.