After suffering two serious knee injuries in his time at Notre Dame, it would make perfect sense for linebacker Drue Tranquill to back down in the face of such adversity.
But that’s just not in his blood.
A defensive anchor and unquestioned leader for the 12-0 Fighting Irish in 2018, Tranquill recently spoke exclusively with MCM about his Senior Bowl experience, which linebackers he admired growing up and why he can’t wait to prove everyone wrong at the NFL Scouting Combine.
JM: What was the Senior Bowl experience like for you?
DT: The Senior Bowl was great. Coming off the 13th game of the season, it’s tough to prepare your body to play another game. This is all in the middle of you training for the combine. I’m essentially training to become a track athlete for the combine (laughs). But I’m honestly so thankful that I went to the Senior Bowl. It was a great opportunity for me to get some exposure. It was great to compete out there against some of the best talent in the nation. All the informal and formal interviews were great prep for the combine. Everyone in Mobile was very hospitable. It was just a tremendous event all around.
JM: The linebacker is often the quarterback of the defense. The Raiders made you a team captain at the Senior Bowl. Walk me through the steps of how a linebacker makes a play. From the pre-snap anticipation to the vision it takes to read a play and so on.
DT: In terms of making a play, it starts during the week of preparation. It starts with watching film on your opponent and being able to identify how they play situational football. It takes a lot of awareness and you have to be smart out there. Knowing what the offense is trying to do helps with your pre snap reads. You’re getting the call and communicating it with your defense, you’re making the checks. You’re seeing the formation and the down and distance. If you understand what the offense likes to do, it helps with your pre snap decision making. You have to have some of the best vision of any player on the field to survive as a linebacker. The last thing a linebacker has to do is, you have to love to hunt. You’re a hunter out there. Go find the football and go make a play. That’s what I love to do.
I'm watching #NotreDame linebacker Drue Tranquill, and I watched their other linebacker Te'Von Coney yesterday. These two complemented each other so perfectly with different styles, strengths and weaknesses. #FightingIrish fans will miss them, but they will both be good #NFL LB's— Fair Shake Football (@FairshakeFB) February 2, 2019
JM: I love that answer. Which linebackers did you enjoy watching growing up?
DT: I was actually a safety growing up. I loved watching Troy Polamalu. He played with such tenacity. It was unbelievable. As I transitioned to linebacker over these last couple of years, two players that really impressed me were Bobby Wagner and Sean Lee. I love Wagner because he’s such a technician. He’s everything you want in a linebacker. He’s equally as effective playing the run and the pass. Talking about the process, some consider it cliche but Lee is someone who just buys in. He’s a guy that came from a prestigious university at Penn State and he knows how to prepare. His awareness is top notch.
JM: Playing at Notre Dame gave you an opportunity to play against some of the best offensive talent at the nation. Which players in general caught your eye?
DT: Probably the most versatile players I played against in my time at Notre Dame, I really have to point to the Stanford running backs. Christian McCaffrey and Bryce Love are such dynamic players. They’re such complete players. They’re as versatile catching passes out of the backfield as they are running the ball. Trevor Lawrence who plays quarterback at Clemson of course, he’s such a special talent. The first play of the game against them, they go empty set and we’re in Cover 0. Our defensive end comes scott free off the edge, turns the corner and Lawrence somehow avoids the sack, spins out of it and gets the ball downfield. To play at that level in the semi finals as a true freshmen is awfully impressive. I’ve never seen anything like that in all my years at Notre Dame.
JM: The combine is coming up fast. Are you looking forward to any of the drills in particular?
DT: I’m honestly really looking forward to running the 40 yard dash. I think a lot of people are underestimating my athleticism. Maybe they think because I’ve had a few ACL injuries that I can’t quite move or they question my long speed. I’m really just looking forward to going out there and competing. We spend so much time preparing for this so I’m really looking forward to it.
JM: What’s one thing you want people to know about Drue Tranquill the man?
DT: The first thing I want people to know about me is that I love the lord. My ultimate goal in life is to share that and to share my testimony. If I can do that through being a great husband, being a great father to my children and being a great representative for whichever organization I get to play for in the NFL, I can’t ask for any more than that.