Over the weekend, Acme Packing Company's Doug Moore got the opportunity to talk to one of the 2016 NFL Draft's top interior offensive line prospects, Landon Turner from the University of North Carolina. Turner spoke about his about his childhood, his time at North Carolina, and his mindset going into the upcoming NFL Draft.
Doug: You're going into this draft coming off being named a 1st Team AP All-American along with winning the Jim Parker Trophy as the top collegiate offensive lineman in the country. How does coming off such a strong season help you in preparing for the draft?
Landon: Coming off such a positive season has meant a lot to me for what I accomplished with my team and it to have that momentum and confidence carry into training and the draft process is helpful in the sense that I know I can compete on a high level with my peers.
D: Now, football is a big part of your family as both your father and uncle played football at West Virginia and your uncle also playing in the NFL during the 1970's. How much did that go into your decision to want to potentially pursue something in football?
L: Family influence had a big hand in my initial pursuit of football. We love football, my mom's side, dad's side and even my inherited family through my step parents. Football has been my love since I was 6 years old and I would look up and be driven by my uncle and father and cousins playing before me.
D: Speaking of West Virginia, they were one of the finalists for you to play college football for. Even with your family's history playing there and also living in West Virginia yourself, what made you choose North Carolina in the end?
L: In that way I'm certainly the black sheep of the family, haha. But my family is very supportive of me and they got over any bias. I've had a cousin play offensive line at Kent State before me. I loved WVU, I was a lifelong fan but UNC was simply a better fit for me as far as the school and place and the relationships I built with guys there.
D: During your preparation for the draft, what are some of the aspects of your game that you've been working on more than others?
L: For my preparation for the draft I've been focused on body composition and weight control. I'm naturally a bigger guy and it takes more effort to keep weight down. I know that a concern for me is my speed because of my size so to stay competitive I've been concentrating on foot speed and my body because they correlate.
D: A former North Carolina offensive guard, Jonathan Cooper, was picked in the top 10 of the 2013 NFL Draft. You guys both played together at UNC during the 2011-2012 season. Do you try to do anything similar to what he does at the position or do you two play completely different ways?
L: Bottom line, Cooper is faster and quicker than me naturally but he's also aggressive and he has a high effort level and those are attributes I saw in him as a mentor and tried to emulate from that point on. He's also technical and always valued it and I followed suit.
D: You started for three plus years at North Carolina, who would you say was the toughest player you went against during your time there?
L: I played against a lot of high quality guys at UNC. But the toughest player was hands down Aaron Donald. He's the most gifted and hardest working guys we played against.
D: If there was one aspect to your game that you believe you're the best at out of this entire draft class, what would it be and why?
L: It's hard to pick out one aspect. I'm not accustomed to glorifying myself and I tend to think on what I need to work on. But I know that I'm an elite guard in this draft and I pride myself on my effort level and soundness of technique because at this level of competition, everyone is strong and fast.
D: Something I found interesting when looking at your bio page on UNC's website, it said that you would like to play for Steelers. Is that still true? And if so, why is that?
L: I can't say that's true but it's not necessarily false. Family is important to me and when they asked me that as a freshman, I just chose Pittsburgh because I have a lot of family in that area. Simple as that.
D: Going back to your time at UNC for a second, you started 41 games there in your four plus years being there. Do you think that puts you at an advantage playing and starting in games all four years of your football career there?
L: I think it has been a good experience that gives me an advantage more mentally than physically. Like I said before, everyone is physically impressive so if I got any meaningful advantage it would be a better understanding of the game of football.
D: Lastly, if you weren't going to be playing in the NFL, what would you be doing for a career and why?
L: I can't say I've entirely figured that out. I've had a serious passion for football since I could remember and even with my education, it's hard to imagine doing anything else. I majored in Sport Administration and English at UNC and I have a particular interest in writing and marketing, so I'd probably pursue something along those lines.
Thanks to Landon for his thoughtful responses. Turner is currently projected to be drafted sometime on day two of the 2016 NFL Draft.