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2019 NFL draft: Introducing Jerry Tillery, Notre Dame’s dominant defensive line prospect

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Vanderbilt v Notre Dame Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

We’re used to seeing Notre Dame send blue-chip defensive prospects to the pros on an annual basis, and the 2019 NFL draft will be no exception.

One of this year’s best offerings from South Bend? Interior defensive linemen Jerry Tillery.

A polished defender with a knack for making plays in opposing backfields, Tillery recently spoke exclusively with MCM about his experience as an offensive linemen in high school, his experience at the NFL Scouting Combine, and why he can’t wait to sack every quarterback in the NFL.

JM: You were actually an offensive linemen in high school. Was switching over to the defensive line always part of the plan?

JT: I was an offensive linemen in high school but I knew that I wanted to play defensive line in college. Notre Dame allowed me to do that.

JM: Was there a steep learning curve associated there?

JT: I don’t think so. I love the game and I was excited to play the position that I truly wanted to play. It worked out for me at the end of the day.

JM: Did having that background as an offensive linemen make you a better defensive linemen?

JT: I think so. I understand the concepts of pass protection and what not. It’s helped me understand how to beat them as a defensive linemen. That knowledge has been valuable. I understand how to apply it.

Tillery sure does understand how to beat offensive linemen. He did it time and time again throughout 2018. He had four sacks in this game against Stanford.

JM: Prior to attending Notre Dame, you went to Evangel Christian Academy in your hometown of Shreveport, Louisiana. What was that experience like for you?

JT: It was a great experience. I loved my high school. I learned a lot there. They prepared me well for the future.

JM: What are some of the main lessons they taught you?

JT: They taught me that it takes hard work if you wanna achieve your goals. I took a lot from my time there. Discipline was a big thing there as well. I learned a ton about discipline. That was another big takeaway for me.

JM: What do you feel is the lasting impression you left at the combine?

JT: I think I showed them that I’m a good player and a good person. I think I really displayed that during my team meetings.

JM: Which drills do you think you excelled in?

JT: I think I turned heads in all of them. I think I was able to go out there and perform well in every drill.

JM: Give me an example of how watching film on one of your opponents has paid off?

JT: Watching film pays off in every single game. I can’t give you one particular example. My preparation to play someone plays a huge role in my success. You have to know who you’re going up against and what they do at a high level. That all starts with watching film. I spend a lot of time in the film room.

JM: In closing, what was the atmosphere like in that Notre Dame locker room this past season? The program has turned things around rather quickly. It wasn’t that long ago they finished 4-8. To turn it around and finish the regular season undefeated this year was pretty special.

JT: The atmosphere was great. We all bought in. We all loved playing for Notre Dame. We loved playing together. We played for one another out there. It was a great atmosphere.