University of Cincinnati product Derek Wolfe will return to town this weekend for the first time since capturing a share of the Big East title last season at Nippert Stadium.
The No. 36 overall selection and first pick of the Denver Broncos will take on the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium. Wolfe finished first in the Big East and fifth in the nation last year with 21.5 tackles for loss and provided the dominant force on the Bearcats defensive line with 9.5 sacks.
His rookie year with Denver (4-3) opened with a bang as he racked up three sacks and stands second on the team behind Von Miller in tackles for loss with five. He spent the year playing half his time at defensive tackle and the other half at the defensive end position.
For Sunday's game he anticipates busloads trekking from his hometown of Lisbon, Ohio and filling up PBS for his homecoming.
I had the opportunity to catch up with him this week to talk about the whirlwind of being drafted, chip still residing on his shoulder and his take on close friend, former teammate Walter Stewart.
Rookie year what you expected?
DW: Obviously, I would like to have a few more snaps, but, you know, other than that it has kind of gone how I thought it would. It stated off a little slow and starting to get the hang of things now. I'm starting to kind of get it. The game is starting to slow down for me a little bit and plays are starting to come my way.
What was it like getting that phone call on draft day?
DW: It feels like a house being lifted off your back because it's the most stressful thing I've ever been through. Where you are going to be, where you are going to live, what kind of job are you going to be doing, what kind of defense are you going to be playing in. It's just a big monkey off your back when you get that phone call. Then it's kind of like a surreal moments because you are doing nothing but doing phone interviews and talking to coaches and talking to media for two days straight. When it's all said and done, OK, now the real work starts. It's not time to take a break it's time to put the foot on the gas pedal and work even harder.
Any chance to reflect on your rise from off the radar junior year to first pick of the Broncos following your senior season?
DW: Honestly, no. To me it's just nothing but eyes forward. Don't look at what you've done and what you have been through
Kind of a homecoming here after going to UC, any extra juices to play at PBS?
DW: It's kind of, listen, everybody you know is going to be there so make sure you don't look stupid. Make sure you perform. Because, obviously, growing up there were a lot of people that doubted me. I'm sure some of those people will be in the stands rooting for me, but don't give anybody any reason to say, 'See, I told you he didn't belong here.' That's kind of like the thing on my back. I always want to make sure I belong and do what I have to do to do that.
That's what motivates you?
DW: I love to prove people wrong. Oh, you are just one of those guys that works hard you are not really a good pass rusher. OK, so that's what motivates me. Obviously I was the first pick and everything but falling out of the first round, that is a chip on my shoulder, too. I just have to prove everybody wrong that I would have been worth that pick. So, all the people that passed up on me that is something I work to prove them wrong.
Feel like with what done so far you have proven you belong?
DW: I haven't proven anything yet because I'm not even done with my rookie season. After I've played a few years then I'll know I belong.
You say you talk to those guys at UC a couple times every other week, have you been able to talk with Walter Stewart since his injury?
DW: I haven't gotten to talk to Walt about it but that is a tough situation. I am pretty close to the kid anyways just from we came in together, went through that growing process together and he's putting a great year together then something like that happens. It just shows you that you have to play every snap like it is your last because you never know if it is going to be over. Breaks my heart. It really does. Talk about a guy that does everything right. He's a great leader, he does everything right. When something like that happens, it just - I don't know how to explain it, it just doesn't make sense to me.
If you have any comments, questions or just want to remind me that I drove the Derek Wolfe bandwagon calling out every service that didn't rate him First Team All-Big East last preseason (yes, I've somehow made his rise about me), please shoot me an email at email@example.com or hit me up on Twitter at @pauldehnerjr.