Former Florida Gators defensive end Jermaine Cunningham is a busy man these days. After being evaluated and interviewed by dozens of NFL teams in preparation for the 2010 NFL Draft, he has been spending time working out, flying out for a private visit with the St. Louis Rams and spending time with his family back at home. OGGOA caught up with Cunningham as he was on his way to his cousin’s play. Lucky for us, he answered every question we had touching on a variety of subjects including his time with the Gators and his future in the NFL.
ADAM SILVERSTEIN: Thanks for giving us some time with you…how’s everything going?
JERMAINE CUNNINGHAM: “Everything is going good.”
AS: Let’s start at the end of last season and work forward. What was Senior Day like for you, playing your last game in The Swamp?
JC: “It was a great time. I had my family around me. It just being the last game in the Swamp – finishing my career on a good note.”
AS: When you look back on your time at Florida, does any one play you made stand out above the rest? Anything specific you will remember?
JC: “I would probably have to say the last play of the National Championship game. Watching the celebration, everyone be happy – us winning the National Championship.”
Read the rest of our interview with Jermaine Cunningham…after the break!
AS: Have you been out to some spring practices while you’ve been in Gainesville recently? Has anyone in particular impressed you?
JC: “No. I’ve been so busy that I haven’t even had a chance to check them out.”
AS: There are guys already on the team trying to fill in for you next year – who do you think can fill your shoes?
JC: “There’s a lot of guys. A couple guys that have been there a couple years – all they can do is get better from what you see. I couldn’t just handpick one person really, I just have to say the whole team. Just look out for them next year.”
AS: When you injured your shoulder last year, how did it happen and how is it doing?
JC: “I injured it in practice during seven-on-sevens diving for a ball and landing on it wrong . After the season, I had Dr. [James] Andrews work on my shoulder. Just be 100 percent and just get back better than I was before. And I feel like it’s going that way. I’m feeling good – it’s ready to go.”
AS: Have any teams expressed concerns about it to you?
JC: “No, because the way it’s going, I am ahead of schedule. I’m feeling great. Went to the [Pro Day] last weekend – it was checked out. Same thing, they told me it was ahead of schedule. Going for 100 percent recovery.”
AS: You put up nice numbers at the Pro Day about a week ago. But on your second 40, I guess you pulled up lame with a quad strain. How is that coming along?
JC: “It was just a minor tweak in my quad. Unfortunately, I tweaked it before I finished – I stumbled in the 40. After that, I just pretty much just stretched it out, wrapped it up and finished my Pro Day. I feel like it came out pretty good. After Pro Day, I iced it a couple days and it’s back to feeling good.”
AS: About 20 teams were on hand for your workout and others requested film. Who has been showing you the most love recently and who have you met with individually?
JC: “My Pro Day being so late, I only had a chance to visit with one team – the St. Louis Rams – last week. I think a couple coaches [meetings] there went good. Really, I’ll just tell you, it’s not any team more than another. It’s overwhelming having a bunch of teams looking at me and giving me a chance to live my dream.”
AS: How did you feel being poked and proded by everybody – having all these guys watching you while you work out?
JC: “I felt good – that’s better than nobody being out there at all. Like I said, I felt I did good, and maybe even better [than I thought].”
AS: Have you heard or do you care about where you are projected to go in the draft?
JC: “I really don’t look at that stuff. That’s where you go wrong – when you start to worry about what everybody else is saying. I’ve heard some things. But, when it comes down to it, you just have to wait until your name is called.”
AS: Well, I’ll tell you what we heard. We spoke to a former NFL scout today singled you out and went on record as saying whoever takes you will land the “steal of the draft.” Do you feel like you are underrated coming out of Florida after the great career you had?
JC: “I wouldn’t say I feel I’m underrated. But I know what kind of player I am. I just go out there and try to make plays, go 100 percent every play. Whatever scout said that, you know, stuff like that – it’s just an honor to know how people feel about you.”
AS: Teams are looking at you both as an outside linebacker in the 3-4 and defensive end in the 4-3. Does it matter to you? Are you better suited for one or the other?
JC: “It doesn’t matter. When people ask me, I tell them that when it all comes down to it, I’m a football player. Put me at linebacker. Put me at defensive end. When the ball’s snapped, I’m just going to go for the person with the ball. Whatever position it is that the team [puts me at], all they need to know is that they are going to get a player who is going to go out there and work hard.”
AS: What are your plans for watching the draft next weekend?
JC: “I’ll be back home with my family in Stone Mountain, Georgia. Nothing too big.”
AS: What are you going to miss most about the University of Florida?
JC: “Just the Gator Nation. We’ve the best fans in the country. That, and the character you build with your team.”
AS: Looking back on it, think you made the right choice going to UF?
JC: “I feel so. Coming into it, I would have never pictured it to come out like this. Two National Championships, two sec championships and a college degree. It’s more than I would have thought of.”
AS: If you had to give any advice to a player trying to decide whether to join the Gators or go somewhere else – what would be your main pitch? What would you tell them?
JC: “If you go to Florida, you are going to be around good coaches and good people. You’re going to come into a winning program. After all that, you choose, you tell me.”
AS: Have you spoken to head coach Urban Meyer at all recently? How is he doing?
JC: “He’s been so busy that I haven’t had too much time to communicate with him. Spoke to him a couple times when I went back. From the looks of it – he looks good, hopefully he’ll be on the sidelines next year with the team.”