Free Agent WR, Legedu Naanee Interview
Legedu Naanee played college football at Boise State University, and he had seventy-two receptions and twelve touchdowns throughout his entire collegiate career. He entered the 2007 NFL Draft, and was selected in the 5th round, 172nd overall by the San Diego Chargers. He earned loads of playing time, and finished his time in San Diego with 746 yards and three TDs. In 2011, he signed with the Carolina Panthers and had his best season of his young career with forty-four receptions and 467 yards. He has started twenty games in his NFL career, but has played in 69 games. This interview was conducted as he was a free agent. [UPDATE: He is currently fighting for a roster spot on the Miami Dolphins.]
Announcement : My name is Max Strauss with www.ProInterviews.org, www.facebook.com/ProInterviews and www.twitter.com/ProInterviews. I’d like to welcome you to the interview with Legedu Naanee. Naanee originally went to Boise State to play quarterback, but made the transition to wide receiver during his sophomore year. He entered the 2007 NFL Draft, and was selected in the 5th round, 172nd overall by the San Diego Chargers. He played in 54 games with 10 starts throughout his career in San Diego. He posted 63 receptions, 746 yards, and 3 touchdowns. He was then a free agent picked up by the Carolina Panthers after the lockout. He had 44 receptions, 467 yards, and 1 touchdown for them this past season in only 10 starts. He is again currently looking for an NFL team. Here is the interview with current free agent, Legedu Naanee.
Strauss : How do you connect with your fans?
Naanee : I like to connect with my fans face-to-face. In different events. Some things that I have done spring camps; I’m doing clothing things where I take kids to Walmart and take them shopping for school clothes. I just do different things with the team, both teams, when I was both in San Diego area and also in Charlotte. In Charlotte, the big thing was when you came out of practice; you realize the fans out there waiting for you. You give high-fives going by or just sign at the end of practices and games. I try and make sure that I always stop, sign pads, pictures, or whatever it was. I always do it for the fans because it’s huge and you definitely feel the fans when you’re on the field.
Strauss : When did you start actually playing football? What was youth football like for you?
Naanee : It was pretty much the same thing that it always has been. I mean you always have something, youth-wise. I played running back and receiver in youth football. As a kid, you love to play all day and all night because it was so fun to play.
Strauss : What was high school football like for you?
Naanee : High school football was a lot of fun. For me, I had a chance to play with a lot of people whom I played with while I was growing up. You get to be personal with a lot of the players and then, we were pretty good. It was fun playing in the playoffs and do those types of things. For me, that was definitely exciting. At the same time, a couple of players on my team and I are having college scouts coming to our games. It was good to be there for each and give each other some advice throughout that whole process, so high school was a lot of fun.
Strauss : You mentioned about colleges coming about to look at you. What was your recruiting experience like?
Naanee : It was between Oregon, Oregon State and Boise State. I chose Boise State to play quarterback. That’s why I chose Boise State. Obviously, I changed to receiver throughout my college experience, but that’s why I chose to go there.
Strauss : What was the transition like to Boise State?
Naanee : It was pretty smooth for me. I had always envisioned myself playing college football and going through all that. I felt the whole thing, as far as moving there and getting accustomed to being on campus and I was doing that. It was pretty smooth.
Strauss : When did you actually make the transition from Quarterback to Wide-Receiver?
Naanee : During my sophomore year.
Strauss : What was that like?
Naanee : Once I made the change, it was actually pretty easy. The biggest thing for me at Boise State was to keep wanting to play Quarterback, because I enrolled there to do that. But once I changed positions, it was easy to transition over in the offense and stuff like that. The biggest thing for me was working out my skills as a receiver. I think we lost one or two games that year, so it was a lot of fun finally being a part of the action and contributing.
Strauss : Will you take me through what the Fiesta Bowl was like for you?
Naanee : It was an exciting game. I don’t know. It was an exciting football game.
Strauss : That game: the Circus, the Halfback Pass & the Statue of Liberty. You were part of that. What do you remember most about the game?
Naanee : I just remember that it was a football game wherein the things that we worked on, the things that we did all year were working for us. Every week, we practiced the play that Hook and Ladder play that got us to the Championship, and the Three-Point Play (Statue of Liberty Play). And, we actually ran the three-point play that earlier in the year. It was something that we had done throughout the year, and it came together on the biggest stage. What I mean is, it was special for us, but it was not like something we had never done before. It was a great experience to be part of.
Strauss : More into the NFL, what was the Combine like for you?
Naanee : The Combine was awesome. After college, training for it and getting prepared for it. We had to get our bodies ready for it and also get ready for it mentally. I was proud to have done it where every team that perhaps was there to see you. It was an awesome experience, and for me it was good experience. I had a chance to seize the moment, and I just performed very well and ended up getting me drafted by San Diego.
Strauss : What was your Draft Day experience like?
Naanee : It was exciting and then at a certain point, you want to see where you are going to end up. There are guys that you knew, and then, you feel that you have played on that same level, and that you could have been drafted. And that is where you start to get anxious then, and then when you are drafted, who your teammates are going to be, you research the team you are going to. It was an exciting experience as a whole.
Strauss : Did you have a party for your Draft Day and everything?
Naanee : No. Just chilled with the family and a couple of friends come over and had dinner. Nothing crazy really. We just watched the Draft.
Strauss : What was your first preseason like with the Chargers?
Naanee : It was really good. The first chance I had was mini-camp where you really get to have a chance to be a part of a NFL team. You are playing with these guys and once you realized that you are out there playing with them, and you know that you are on their level mentally; then you know, that you are here to step up and compete. The first thing that I knew competing with them was that once training camp began, I just had to prove what I was worth because I wanted to make the team. During the preseason games, it was exciting, seeing the lights in a NFL stadium, and the other team that you plan to beat was also a lot of fun.
Strauss : Throughout your first few years with the Chargers, you got some postseason experience. What was it like playing in the postseason?
Naanee : Playing in the postseason was definitely cool. I had a chance to play in the NFC championship. You can see the different stages of the playoffs. In my case, it was an experience that I never had. In the case of Pittsburgh, they had the home field advantage and it was in the snow. But, we were on the road, and they were all big games. We got to go to New England and Indianapolis to play. The big games and the big atmosphere were definitely exciting.
Strauss : You were a teammate of LaDainian Tomlinson. What’d you see in LT when you were in San Diego?
Naanee : Just the same thing that everybody else sees in him. Everything that’s advertised about him, is true. It’s not an act. He was a great teammate. A leader by example. When he speaks, it is a spoken word that the team need to hear. He is someone that my career had benefited by just seeing how he worked and the ability he brought to the table.
Strauss : In your first start in San Diego, you add a touchdown reception. What was that like to know You finally got your first score and all of that and against a rival too at the same time?
Naanee : It was cool, but it was a goal that I’ve always had. Looking back to the first game, it wasn’t really a huge moment; it was definitely a cool moment. But in that season, we didn’t get done what we were trying to get done, but it definitely was a cool experience against Kansas City though.
Strauss : What was the best part about your time in San Diego?
Naanee : The whole transition from being a rookie to having your teammates respect and that your teammates depend on. That whole transition from having teammates that you learn from, teammates like Antonio Gates, LaDainian Tomlinson; guys that are stars in the league that you had a chance to work with everyday and guys that you see how they get things done. It was a great experience.
Strauss : What was the transition like to the Panthers this past offseason?
Naanee : It was definitely a different type of transition for me. It was difficult because in the offseason because of the whole lockout issue. We didn’t have the chance to come in, get acquainted with the team, get acquainted with your surroundings and all that. Camp had already started when I signed with the Panthers. It was definitely a fast transition but once I got settled in there, it definitely was a cool experience in playing out in that city and in that environment. It was definitely a unique experience.
Strauss : You had a throwback pass and I know you played quarterback a while ago. When did you install that throwback pass to Cam Newton? How early in the season did you have that installed in the playbook? And what was it like to finally use it in a game situation?
Naanee : We started maybe four to five weeks before that. I am not sure for whom we started installing it for, but we started installing it. In a game, we wanted to run it in a certain situation. We didn’t run it though because we never got in that situation. We kind of held on to it and a couple of weeks later, it scrambled its way back into the game plan. We worked on it during practice but we didn’t run it again. I think it was the third game. Finally, we got to run the play as we were working and working on it. We were excited to finally run the play. We got it called and we executed it, but too bad Cam Newton didn’t get in the endzone on that one.
Strauss : Was it all disappointing that you didn’t get in and score?
Naanee : I think it was cool to have a touchdown pass on my stats, but we were proud that we won that game which was the most important thing out of everything?
Strauss : What was your touchdown [catch] like against the Buccaneers?
Naanee : It was definitely exciting because we had a chance earlier in the season to connect on some things, but we didn’t connect on them. Connecting on that one was definitely exciting since we were both on the same page. He threw a good ball and I just went up and got it.
Strauss : You have been to two different teams, so maybe you can compare the players on the teams. You have to deal with Coach Rivera this past season. You also got to deal with Norv Turner when you were in San Diego. What are they both like and how are their coaching styles different too?
Naanee : For one, they’re are a lot alike. They both demand a lot out of their players, they both prepare the players, they are going to work in shifts on-and-off-the-field in meeting rooms and such to make sure the staff get the players ready on the field. They are a lot alike that way. Now, the way they do it is different because the teams were different. With Ron [Rivera] and the Carolina Panthers, it’s a younger team and it was his first year coming in. It was a rebuilding situation, there was a lot of encouraging, and there was also a lot of teaching. We had a shorter offseason, so we had a lot of learning throughout the season. Then, with Norv [Turner], his first year was my first year in the league, and he was taking on a more veteran team that had already been successful and had been 14-2 and in the Playoffs. He had everything in position, so when he came in, he made his team about the X’s and O’s and about execution and knowing your different roles. That is how I see them both alike and different.
Strauss : Another comparison for you… When you were in San Diego you played with Philip Rivers and then in Carolina, you played with Cam Newton. What are they both like? How do they compare and how to they differ?
Naanee : They both have a great will to win which I think is a great must for any quarterback to win in the NFL. They both will do anything for their team to win which is also another must for a quarterback in the NFL. It’s the way that they do it that’s different. Cam [Newton] is more athletic. He can extend the play outside the pocket. When nothing is there, he can run for a first-down or in the red zone, he can be sort of almost like a power back because you now can have a fullback and halfback blocking for him. There are different ways that you are going to attack with Cam. With Phillip [Rivers], he’s going to execute the offense. He’s going to exploit you when you try to blitz. He knows where to put the ball. He is going to hurt you as a quarterback with his precision. He can extend the play by knowing where the blitz is coming from, staying in the pocket shuffling or changing the protection, instead of running, and continue the play and being able to stay in the pocket. That is how they are different, but they’re both great players.
Strauss : You also worked with WR, Steve Smith this past year. What was he like? And, did he serve as a mentor to you at all?
Naanee : Steve [Smith] is awesome. Steve was one of the best teammates that I ever have. I don’t know if it’s media perception, but he gets a bad rap as a person. He is one guy that no matter who you are on the team will make sure you are good on the field. He will tell you on the field how you can improve your game on the field. He will ask how you are as an individual off the field. He will help you as a person in your personal life. There are not a lot of guys that can play at the level he plays at and be able to as good in all the areas that he is. He is a great player and a great teammate.
Strauss : You were a teammate of Seyi Ajirotutu. What was it like to be a teammate of him with the Chargers and also with the Panthers?
Naanee : It was pretty cool since we both were going through the same transitions at the same time. He came a couple of weeks after I did so it was a little faster for him being rushed into action. It was cool to have a familiar face early in the season, somebody that I already knew. On the road, he was my roommate, and we hung out together.
Strauss : What do you expect your role to be this coming year for a team and what do you hope to bring to a NFL team since you are a free agent this year?
Naanee : I can’t answer what my role would be because I don’t know where I am going. As far as what I would bring to the team, I would definitely bring leadership. I’m going to bring a great work ethic. I am going to bring a winner’s mentality since I had been a part of a winning teams and I know what is like to be on one. I know what type of work needs to be done to be a part of a winning team. And them I’m just going to bring the will to win. I have been to the AFC Championship. I have been through different rounds in the playoffs. I’ve been to a team that didn’t make the playoffs. I know what it feels like not to make the playoffs. Now, I know that I want to be in the playoffs. I want to get into my next goal with is the Super Bowl. I will bring all those things to the team that I go to, and depending on the team I go to will be the degree of what I will contribute to it.
Strauss : I know that you are a Boise State alum, and I guess I am throwing it out there since you graduated awhile ago, have you ever met and talked with Kellen Moore?
Naanee : I met him when he first was coming in before he was even enrolled at Boise State. I think I met him in the summertime. It was really brief. I’ve never worked out with him or never thrown with him or anything like that.
Strauss : Looking back into your career so far, what has been the best catch of your career?
Naanee : I haven’t looked back. I am always looking forward. I’m always working and getting ready for what’s to come. Being a free agent, I want to make sure that wherever I go that I am in the best physical and mental shape. I need be able to bring everything that I need to bring to be able to bring that to the team. I need to bring the highest level that I can bring to a team. That’s really where my focus is and I will not look back until I am done.
Strauss : If you could describe yourself as any ice cream flavor, what would you be?
Naanee : I would say a Vanilla-Oreo ice cream with Protein Shake Powder mixed in between to give that healthy kick in between there. Just because it gives you that dessert-craving, but it’s not too sweet. Anybody can eat it pretty much whether you eat ice cream or not. Your taste buds won’t go too crazy. It’s good for everybody so that’s it.
Strauss : For someone who wants to play in the NFL, what’s the best advice you can give them?
Naanee : I think the best advice that I could give them would be that they have biggest tool they need and that is they want to play in the NFL. If they want to play in the NFL, they have to do everything that people tell them along the way. When teachers push them to come to class and help their grades to make them academically eligible, that is what they need to do. They need to be accountable on weekends in high school and in college, that is what you need to do. The biggest tool that they need is the want to do it. The biggest thing you need to do is to listen to the people who give you advice along the road, and you’ll make it.
Strauss : Thanks so much for your time Legedu. I really appreciate it.
Naanee : Bye and thanks again.
Announcement : Thank you for listening to the interview with Legedu Naanee. I hope you enjoyed it. I hope you leave your comments below as well! Please check out my website www.prointerviews.org for other interviews, “LIKE” the Facebook page at www.facebook.com/ProInterviews, and follow me on twitter at www.twitter.com/ProInterviews. Thanks again for listening! Stay tuned for more, and feel free to contact me.
->Here are the personal questions that Legedu Naanee answered.<-
Strauss : If you can meet anyone, who would it be and why?
Naanee : I would like to meet Michael Jordan because he was a childhood idol that I looked up to. I have questions for him about his career. I would want to talk about what drove or motivated him, how he continued to prepare when he was already at the top of his competition and stuff like that. I have always been a fan and still am of the person.
Strauss : Did you look up to anyone football-wise?
Naanee : Yes. For football, it was Deion Sanders. Growing up, baseball was actually my favorite sport and he was the perfect person to look up to since he was playing baseball and football, both professionally and at a high level. He was the best, in my opinion, on what he did for football; There was always a lot of excitement watching him. So for me, it was definitely Deion Sanders.
Strauss : Do you have a favorite TV show?
Naanee : My favorite TV show is probably Entourage.
Strauss : Do you have a favorite movie of all-time?
Naanee : My favorite movie is probably Training Day. It’s a Denzel Washington movie. He was a dirty cop. It was very entertaining.
Strauss : Do you have a favorite type of pie?
Naanee : Definitely Apple Pie. Warm Apple Pie with Ice Cream.
Strauss : If you could choose… What would your last meal on Earth be?
Naanee : I don’t know. I mean I am not a picky eater at all, so I don’t know. (laughs)
Strauss : Do you have a special pre-game ritual?
Naanee : No real-set ritual. The biggest thing for me is visualization and just being really prepared for the game. No crazy rituals or anything like that.
Strauss : If you could have any super power, what would it be?
Naanee : It probably would be to fly; You could probably get a lot of things just with flying: You can play fast, do quicker things and there are probably a lot of pretty extra things you could do in football too.
Strauss : Thanks for answering the personal questions.
Naanee : Not a problem! They were fun.