I had the opportunity to sit down for a phone interview with former Ohio State Buckeye and the Oakland Raiders fourth round selection of the 2011 NFL Draft, Chimdi Chekwa. We talked about the wrist injury he suffered in the Sugar Bowl, sliding in the draft, Stefen Wisniewski, Al Davis, Jim Tressel and more. He was very generous with his time, respectful and gave thoughtful answers. I am going to post this in two parts as it was a fairly long interview.
Thanks to everyone who gave me interview questions yesterdays, and I should just apologize now for not asking them as y'all wrote them, but once I started talking I kind of abandoned the script and just talked. Don't be too hard on me as this is my first interview. Check out the transcript after the jump....
How's your wrist?
Chekwa: It's good. I've been rehabbing. It's not quite where it was before the injury. It's still a little tight. So, I've been working on loosening it up a little bit.
It was a dislocation and not a fracture right?
Chekwa: Yes, it was a dislocation, and I tore ligaments in my wrist. I had surgery to get screws put in there to hold it all together and let the ligaments heal and then get the screws taken out.
So, is that something that leaves you more vulnerable to a recurring injury or not?
Chekwa: No, I think it actually helps it out, and keeps it from recurring. The wrist is so much more packed in now; it's so much more tighter, which is why I am going to rehab to loosen it up a little bit more so I can get more range of motion. So, yeah the likelihood of it recurring is very low.
It must have been pretty frustrating to go out of your bowl game fairly early. What went through your head as you started to realize that your injury was fairly severe?
Chekwa: My biggest concern at the time—as I realized that it was a big time injury—was winning the game. I couldn't see what was going on when I left. But I was really concerned about the game. It was my senior year and there was nothing better than going out with a bowl game against a SEC team.
After that being able to come back and play next season. I was told that the injury would heal and that I'd be able to come back and play my rookie year in the NFL. That's what I needed to know. I wasn't too stressed out about the whole situation.
Did you watch the draft on TV?
Chekwa: Yes, I watched the first three rounds. Then my sister had a graduation Saturday at Mississippi State and I went to that.
I had seen some places where you projected to go as high as the second round. Had you paid attention to those or had you built up any expectations?
Chekwa: Yeah, I did. You know I think mentally—at least in my case—I expected to go higher, regardless of others expectations, just because of where I know my ability is. Speaking to my agent, and he usually knows and can tell you what rounds are possibilities for. My window was late second to early fourth. So he basically said I'll probably be a third round draft. I could go one round earlier or one round later. It turns out (chuckles) I got the worst of it and went in the fourth, but I went to a good situation.
Does that help motivate you to prove every team wrong that passed up on you in the third?
Chekwa: It definitely motivates me. Not so much that I went in the fourth round, because getting picked 113 isn't a bad, I mean a top 113 pick I think that's pretty good, but there were a lot of corners that went ahead of me. And I think I am coming into the league with a little bit of a chip on my shoulder to show teams that I have the ability to be a second round guy and to show teams that I have the ability to play football and play football well in the NFL.
What was your first thought, after you got past the excitement of being drafted, about going to the Raiders?
Chekwa: I think my first thought would be that I'd be back in the warm weather again. I grew up in the south and coming from Columbus and it's cold there. Other than that, I think it's a good situation for me and a good opportunity for me. I am a little bit familiar with the Raider defense and what they like to play and I really like it.
It's no secret if you go to the Raiders that you are going to be playing a lot of man coverage. So that's something your comfortable with, playing man-to-man?
Chekwa: Yes, it is. You know I am not naive enough to think that there's no difficulty coming into the NFL and play man-to-man, especially as a rookie, but—at the same time—I am really comfortable with it and playing close to the receiver. It's something I am excited about, and something I am ready to do.
When you are lined up in man are you more comfortable playing up tight in bump and run, or leaving a little bit of cushion?
Chekwa: I'd really say either or. I get that question a lot. To be honest I don't know which one I like to do more. I can do both real well, I think.
Have you had a chance to talk to any of your new teammates yet?
Chekwa: Not really. I had a call from [Marcel] Reece, the fullback, and he left me a voicemail about the team getting together, and he told me to call, and I left him a voicemail.
You think that's something you'd be able to participate in?
Chekwa: It's definitely something I am going to try and accomplish. You know at this point finances are an issue. I am not getting scholarship money from the school and not getting money from the NFL yet. And that's something I'm looking into and something I'm going to really really try to do.
You also have to be concerned about a possible injury effecting your future contract. You don't want to get hurt before you sign your first contract, right?
Chekwa: Yeah, that's something I've actually talked to my agent about. I'm not too concerned about injury. I mean obviously there's a chance, but at least show up and get together with my new teammates is something I really want to do.
More to come....