NEPD Editor: Doug Kyed
I recently got the chance to talk to a real sleeper in this draft, former Stanford stand out WR Chris Owusu. Chris was a great guy to speak to, and he detailed what this whole NFL Draft process has been like for him.
Chris really tore it up at the combine running an official 4.36 40 (tied for 1st among WRs), with a 40 1/2″ vertical jump (3rd), 10’09” broad jump (2nd), 4.11 short shuttle (6th) and a 6.85 3-cone drill (9th).
We talked about what it was like playing with Andrew Luck, some of the intricacies of the Harbaugh offense, and you may even find out if he would rather play under Jim Harbaugh or with Andrew Luck.
DOUG KYED: Can you just tell me real quick when it was you started playing football, and how that all started for you?
CHRIS OWUSU: Yeah, my first sport was actually basketball, so it was just playing basketball, and my friends and my dad told me to come out for the Pop Warner team my 7th grade year. So I went out there and just happened to be faster than everyone else, so it was kind of a sport I fell in love with right away.
DK: You went to Oaks Christian, which is kind of a breeding ground for college talent; how do you think that helped you out and who were some of the guys you go to play with there?
CO: I got to play with the likes of Jimmy Clausen, Marc Tyler, Marshall Jones; a bunch of great D-1 athletes and Jimmy’s gone on to success in the NFL. You just raise your talent when you’re surrounded by that much talent and I think we just pushed each other to another level in terms of working hard, getting to the weight room, working on what we need to work on to perfect our craft, and when you have, what I like to say “iron sharpening iron”, you raise your level up, so it was somewhere where I was blessed to be around a lot of talent and a lot of people who worked hard like that.
DK: Coming out of high school, I know you had some other offers — you had offers from Ole Miss, Washington, Virginia — how’d you decide on Stanford as your college?
CO: To be honest, for me it was kind of a no-brainer — you know, you always hear about the academic excellence, but I felt that it was a program on the rise, Coach Harbaugh was taking the program to another level and I wanted to be part of that transformation of bringing the Stanford program from the ground up. Coach Harbaugh built a great foundation and I wanted to be a part of it. It was kind of a no-brainer for me, to be part of an institution like that.
DK: And playing in Harbaugh’s offense, you got to have the experience of playing in a pro-style offense, and playing with a great quarterback like Andrew Luck, what do you think that’s going to do for you in the NFL? How do you think that will help you?
CO: Yeah, it only helps you. I think that the West Coast Offense is one of the more complicated offenses; it’s more concept-based than just numbers-based, so in terms of the transition from college to the NFL I think it’s going to make it a lot easier. I’ll be able to adopt the playbook a lot faster than people who didn’t get the chance to play in a West Coast Offense. In terms of playing with Andrew, I was blessed to be playing with him in my college career. He’s a humble guy but he makes you work a lot harder, so I’ll be able to work very hard. By playing with the best quarterback in the nation, I was blessed.
DK: I know you might have surprised some people with your speed at the combine — was that something you were expecting to do?
CO: I don’t know. I expected it. I know I’m capable of playing that fast, so it wasn’t really a surprise to me. I don’t know why that surprised some people, maybe they didn’t get to see me as much as far as people on the East Coast. It may be exposure. I’ll leave it up to other people to decide but hopefully I turned some heads in terms of the combine.
DK: While you were at Stanford, you showed off that you could go for the deep ball and you obviously showed that speed and that you can run some of the short or intermediate routes. What are you the most comfortable with, would you say?
CO: I feel like over my college career I adapted the ability to run every route. So, in terms of something I’m strongest at, I feel like I’m strong at a lot of things. I love the deep ball, but you always want the ball in your hands to make plays, so these intermediate routes are important as well.
DK: What do you think is the biggest thing that sets you apart from some of these other wide receivers?
CO: I feel like I am a dual threat. I feel like I can make an immediate impact for an organization because I’m able to return kicks as well and I can return pretty well. It’s all about making an impact for your organization and I feel like I can make an immediate impact.
DK: How was the whole combine experience? I know it must have been your first time talking with NFL teams and organizations, so how do you think it went for you?
CO: I feel like it went well. I feel like all of the interviews went really well. It was great to talk football with the organizations that you grow up rooting for or rooting against. Just being around all this talent, I feel, brings out the best in me. I love talking about ball so it was a fun experience for me. It was long and at times tiring but it was something I really enjoyed.
DK: I know that every year, some of the prospects talk about some of the weirder questions that they get at the combine. Did you get any real weird questions while you were down there?
CO: Yeah, I got some. We just talked about everything. I feel like at the combine it’s just something where you get to the know the person. They try to get to know you and you try to get to know them. In terms of the weirder questions, there were some riddles and stuff that you were kind of unprepared for but I think it made the experience that much more fun.
DK: I know that everyone probably asks you about this, and it’s one of the questions you get more often, but the concussion history. What do you have to say to people who might doubt you or push you down draft boards because of that?
CO: I don’t know, if they want to overlook me, they can overlook me. But I plan on making an immediate impact in the NFL; whoever drafts me, I’ll work as hard as anyone on the field. I just can’t wait for the opportunity to play this game I love. I just can’t wait to play football.
DK: What NFL team did you grow up rooting for?
CO: We didn’t have an LA team. I’m really LA based. I like to cheer for the LA Lakers; that’s my basketball team, so in terms of an NFL team to root for, I didn’t really have one.
DK: I hear that a lot from some prospects. Were there specific players you really liked watching?
CO: Yeah. I really liked watching Chad Ochocinco. When he was in Cincinnati, with getting out of the breaks and his quickness. I really liked watching Randy Moss as well. He’s such a dynamic player. He’s someone you can’t keep your eyes off of because of how explosive he is. Now I really like watching Greg Jennings as well.
DK: What NFL player do you think your game is most comparable to?
CO: That’s a hard one. I like Mike Wallace, because of his ability to make plays after the ball is in his hands. I like Pierre Garcon as well. Those are guys I think my game is comparable to the most.
DK: Through this process — talking to the media, talking with teams — is there anything you wished they had asked you?
CO: Not really. I feel like the media questions are up to you guys to decide. I love talking about football so any football-based questions are fine with me. I’ve actually gotten a lot of questions about offensive schemes and stuff like that so it’s cool to talk about the West Coast Offense to some of the teams.
DK: Tell me a little bit about the terminology in the West Coast Offense that you played in at Stanford. Do you think it was a lot of terms or was it more simplified?
CO: The West Coast Offense allows you to be very flexible in terms of moving players around. Instead of being stuck in one spot, you want to move your dynamic players around. So instead of changing a bunch of numbers up, you’re able to say a couple concepts, like instead of saying trips say triple. It’s a concept where it’s something you have to get used to. My early years I had to really get into the play book and get used to the terminology. But it allows you to be flexible and move your players around. It kind of simplifies it in terms of, if you know the concept you know what to do, and you’re able to adjust and see what the quarterback sees. It actually puts you on the same page, so all those little things help simplify the game, I guess.
DK: Tell me about some of the option routes they had you run.
CO: Yeah absolutely, you and your quarterback have to be on the same page. You can’t just change a route by yourself. That’s what the west coast offense is all about you know changing routes on the fly, adapting to a defensive look that you might not have prepared for. So that’s what the benefits of the west coast offense are.
DK: Through this whole process, HS, College, everything, when did you think that the NFL could be a real possibilty for you?
CO: You know, just, seeing the studs and stars on TV, growing up when I first started playing I feel like I started to watch more and more football and that’s where I really made it a dream and made it a goal of mine to play in the highest level. And that’s the NFL. I want to play football for as long as I can, the NFL is the next step and yeah, I can’t wait to have the opportunity to take advantage of it.
DK: Who’s the best cornerback that you faced in the Pac-10?
CO: I thought maybe Trufant from Washington. I thought he was pretty good.
DK: Did some of your former Stanford teammates help you in this process?
CO: I think that the benefits of having a lot of former Stanford athletes in the NFL, they get to tell you some tips, they kind of prep you with what’s going on, so in terms of the combine, Ryan Whalen, a former Stanford receiver was there to guide me on what to expect. You have former athletes and former Stanford football players there to guide you. I had a lot of help from Richard Sherman and Ryan Whalen.
DK: Richard Sherman is one of those guys I really like to watch in the NFL, what was it like going up against him in practice?
CO: It was fun, you could always tell, going up you always feel the energy when me and him went against each other. It was something where iron sharpens iron when you’ve got two of the best out there to compete. It’s always fun, I really respect Richard and he’s helped me. He was a receiver actually when I first came, and he actually took me under his wing as a young wideout and kind of showed me the ropes. Actually going against him in my later years at Stanford was a lot of fun. It made practice a lot more fun for me and a lot better. He was able to help me out and help me improve going against him.
DK: With the combine over and the draft coming up, what are you doing now to keep yourself ready for this process?
CO: It’s just gonna be a lot of route running, working on trying to perfect every route. You want to perfect your craft. That’s what I want, to get more explosive in the weight room. Just work as hard as I can for the next few weeks and I just can’t wait to get into a camp.
DK: Any plans for the draft yet?
CO: I actually don’t have any plans. I’d like to go home, but if i’m at school, then I’ll probably just watch it here.
DK: What’s your major?
CO: Human Biology.
DK: That’s uh, a little more complex than some of the other players.
CO: (laughs) It’s fine.
DK: What kind of things do you like to do in your spare time?
CO: I love to hang out with my friends. Just relax. If i’m able to open a book up, start reading. I also love playing video games, that’s something i enjoy doing. Just hanigng out, maybe opening a book every once in a while.
DK: What do you think it is about you that makes you such a good kick returner and is special teams something you really hope to do at the next level as well?
CO: Yeah, I think that in terms of returning the ball, you’ve got to be patient. My biggest influence is Devin Hester, he’s explosive, he has the speed to go the distance, but he’s also patient and that’s something that I want to adopt in my game. I want to be patient and let the hole open and when you see the hole, you’ve got to explode into it and go full speed. I think that’s something that kind of separates myself as a kick returner.
DK: As a receiver, what are some of things you try to do to beat press coverage?
CO: You’ve got to have a plan whether it is speed, whether it is actually a release move. I think you have to have a plan going in. You have to study your cornerback, who you’re going against and see what his tendencies are. And based off his tendencies, that’s how you react. You also have to react to just things that you’re not prepared for. Just having a plan going in to beating press coverage is really important.
DK: What’s easier to read for you, zone or man?
CO: I love man to man. I think it’s easier in terms of you have to beat the guy in front of you, so I think one on one beating the guy in front of you, you raise your level a little bit, you have to go out there and beat him. I love going against man to man, zone coverage in fine as well, but I think man to man is a little bit funner for me.
DK: Where are you training?
CO: California Strength in East Bay. David Spitz was my trainer.
DK: You kind of killed it in the vertical and the broad jump in the combine. Is that something you were seriously training for?
CO: I think it was just overall, you just have to work on everything. I actually didn’t really work on the broad or vert that much at all. I was just working on getting stronger in the weight room and really practicing working on my speed. That was very natural and it was good to improve in the weight room and become more explosive.
DK: The next process for you is private workouts with teams, what are some of the things your former teammates have told you to prepare for?
CO: One thing that’s really important and one thing they told me is be yourself. Don’t go out there and try to show them anyone else but yourself. If they ask me to run routes, you’ve got to prepare to run your routes. That’s something I enjoy doing, something I enjoy preparing for and something I enjoy perfecting. So I think all of those little things, being yourself and just putting on a show for them that’s something that they told me to do.
DK: This is going to be kind of a hard question, if you had to decide between going to the 49ers with your former head coach, or going wherever Andrew Luck goes, what would you pick?
CO: (Laughs) I think i’m going to have to pass on that one. I think that would be a mistake to answer that. I can’t answer that.
DK: Figured I’d give you a hard one for the last one.
CO: (Laughs) Pass.