The Raiders have a new defensive tackle. His name is Vance Walker aka "Swagger Vance". I had a chance to speak with him today via conference call.
This is the transcription of that conversation:
Which other teams besides the Raiders were talking to you?
I was talking to a couple Seattle, Giants, Philly, and a couple other teams but I felt like they had lesser interest. But as far as the Raiders, I feel like I'm a great fit for what they're trying to do, they showed me a lot of love for what I've been doing the past four years and appreciation and that's one of the things that really drew me to the Raiders was the fact that they realized I was a seventh round pick and it hasn't been easy pickings since I've gotten into the league. I've been able to build on each year since I've been here successful."
What is your sense of what they're trying to do on defense?
"Well, obviously, I watched a good bit of film and it's pretty similar to what I've done in the past. For the most part they liked my versatility, they like that I can play the nose, the three technique, or defensive end. Honestly anything they throw at us, I think we'll be fine and ready for and I'll be fine and ready for."
You've played a few positions on the defensive line, which are you most comfortable with?
"Honestly, they're all pretty much the same. You line up, you run like always, you try your best to get that done. With that being said, I've been playing defensive tackle all my life so I'm just more familiar with the speed of the game inside as opposed to outside. Things happen a lot slower, you have to use your eyes better, but none the less it's all the same stuff, being physical and speed as well."
Was staying in Atlanta an option?
"Yeah, it was an option, but at the end of the day it was a better option to see which team could I grow with, which team will I be able to reach my ceiling with, and at the end of the day after I went to Oakland that place. Just a great bunch of guys in coaching, coach T [defensive line coach Terrell Williams], coach JT [defensive coordinator Jason Tarver]. I love the Falcons, don't get me wrong, they did a great job helping me develop, but as far as moving on in my career, I think Oakland was the better fit. Atlanta did want me to stay, but complications from little things kind of prevented that as well. But just the biggest one to grow was Oakland out of all the teams that I could look at."
How many snaps were you getting for the Falcons? Do you think your snaps will increase here?
"I definitely want it to increase, without a doubt I do. Per game, it's hard to say because depending on what the game plan was in Atlanta. I know for sure that I played 51% of the snaps in Atlanta so a bit over half. Obviously I would love to play more and I've got a lot prove as far as rushing the passer which is something I know I can do and that's something I'm willing to bring and I will bring to the table with the Raiders."
The Raiders have made it clear they're looking for are under the radar, love football, no drama guys. Is that you?
"Yes, sir. I come from Georgia Tech, I played for... even if there wasn't any football, we'd be studying long and hard anyway. I brought that to the Falcons and I will definitely bring that to Oakland. It's just something that I've done. I've been a student of the game. Just learning everything about your opponent and getting that one up before you even hit the gym."
Being a 7th round pick, did you feel like you belonged in the NFL from the start or were you taking it game by game?
"I did feel like I belonged in the NFL and that would be regardless of the round I was picked in whether it was the seventh or the first, that's just me as a person, I always feel that I have to prove something, regardless of everybody's for me or everybody's against me. Being a seventh round pick put more pressure on me to produce in the position I was in because I didn't have the time that a higher draft pick would have as far as errors were concerned so if I make mistakes, I'd be out of there so that definitely pushed me to realize my potential a lot faster but as of now I realize that it's about me as a player and I know what I've capable of and I always strive to be the best so that's definitely what I'm trying to get out of life and football."
If Raiders were to say, 'we're going 3-4 and you are our nose tackle', you ok with that?
"I'm perfectly fine that it, I would love it. As long I get to play football, you won't hear one complaint out of me."
What was your impressions of the Raiders defense last season?
"I always watch the defense whenever we're playing a game I always watch the other team's defense. I don't pay too much attention to the offense. Obvioulsy I was playing against their offense. For the most part they had speed and tenacity. They were getting after Matt Ryan a good bit. They were putting hits on him and forcing mistakes and bad decisions. I think that's what they're about. The attitude and teh fact they're going to hit you and hit you hard. It's all mental with them and that's what I took away from it. They did a really great job of setting the tone during that game. We came out and obviously we had our game plan but you could tell they were trying to impose their will on us and they did a really great job... The Raiders did a really great job as far as their attitude, being up on the other so they submit."
Falcons fans seem sad to see you go and as you have said, Raiders fans showed you a lot of love, did you expect any of that?
"Honestly, I didn't. I was kind of stressed, I've been in Atlanta for eight years, at Georgia Tech for four, in Atlanta for four, so I've developed a lot of relationships. I don't know, the fan base in Atlanta is great as well, not to say I expected them to be negative towards me but they've showed me a good bit of love but the Raiders definitely welcomed me to the team with open arms and I do appreciate that. As far as the Falcons, a lot of the fans realized my potential, I'd get around town a good bit ‘Why'd they let you leave?' but, you know, everything happens for a reason, I don't doubt it at all, not one bit. I'm very excited for my opportunity."
Where did this name Swagger Vance come from?
"(laughs) You know it's funny, it actually came from Philip Wheeler. Philip Wheeler actually gave me that Twitter handle. It's in relation to the movie with Will Smith, 'The Legend of Bagger Vance.' He just switched it up and put ‘The Legend of Swagger Vance'. So, that's how it started, that's how Philip gave me my Twitter handle. I was like ‘you know what, Philip, that's a good idea.'"
You went to Georgia Tech with Philip Wheeler?
"Yes, sir, I played with him for two years."