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2020 NFL draft: Introducing Derrek Tuszka, NDSU’s gem of a pass-rushing prospect

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NFL: Combine Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

If your favorite NFL team is looking for an under-the-radar pass rusher who could be one of this year’s best bargains at a premium position, NDSU’s Derrek Tuszka should be high on their list of targets.

A well-rounded prospect who turned a lot of heads at the combine, Tuszka recently spoke exclusively with MCM about the responses to his incredible combine, which teams he’s met with throughout this process (including the Titans), and what kind of impact he’ll make at the next level.

JM: You posted the best three-cone result (6.87) among the EDGE group at the combine. What do you think is the overall impression you left on the teams in Indianapolis?

DT: I think I left a great impression out there. Going into the combine, teams were telling me and my agents that they hoped I’d remain a little under the radar (laughs). It was pretty funny. I feel like my performance, especially hitting the best time among all edge rushers in the three-cone probably put me right on the map. I don’t think I’m really flying under the radar anymore. Some teams may be sort of bummed out about that. I definitely left a really good impression out there. I thought that the interview process, the testing and on-field work all went really well for me.

JM: That’s fantastic. You definitely left your mark out there. Do you think you caught some people off guard with your performances?

DT: Yeah, I sure did. Anytime a prospect from a smaller D-I school goes to the combine, it seems like athleticism is always a huge question mark. It felt good to put any of those concerns to bed with my performance. I definitely showed teams that athleticism is not an issue for me.

JM: There’s no question about that. Did you get a chance to meet with any teams in-person prior to the spread of COVID-19 shutting everything down?

DT: The virus shut it all down. I was supposed to have my Pro Day on March 26th and that didn’t even happen. That’s right around when everything started to happen. That’s when NFL teams started to pull their scouts off the road and what not. My Pro Day never happened. I had some private visits and workouts lined up that had to be canceled.

Everybody was looking forward to those in-person interviews but they never happened. The entire process changed. Everything shifted to FaceTime and Zoom. It’s great that we have the technology to still get that face-to-face feel, but it’s obviously a little different. It’s all virtual. Regardless, it’s good exposure for us and for the organizations as well. It still gives me a chance to discuss and showcase my knowledge of the game.

JM: That’s great. It sounds like you’re making the best of this unique situation. Who are some of the teams that you’ve met with via FaceTime and Zoom?

DT: I’ve had virtual meetings with a number of teams. I actually still have a few more meetings on my schedule for this week prior to Thursday of course. I may not be able to recall every meeting, but I’ve met with the Giants, Bengals, Eagles, Jaguars, Chargers, 49ers and Titans. My agent has heard from a number of teams who are interested in me but didn’t feel the need to hold a FaceTime meeting with me. They’re very comfortable with their evaluation of my personality as is. Sometimes those FaceTime calls are to discuss any red flags they may have on you character wise or whatever. A lot of teams feel good about my character. I don’t have any off-the-field issues or anything like that.

JM: That’s good news for you. It sounds like there’s a lot of interest in you, and rightfully so. How would you describe your pass rush arsenal?

DT: I’m not gonna lie to you, I probably don’t have as many moves in my arsenal as a lot of guys. It’s intentional though. The way I rush the passer, I’m only gonna have about two or three go-to moves. I like to work off of those. In my opinion, pass rushers that have too many moves tend to play a little slower. They overthink things instead of just reacting to what the tackle gives them. If you could piece together two or three really good moves and learn how to counter off them, you’re gonna be a lot more successful in my opinion. I only have a few moves that I consider my go-to. Everything else is just reacting and playing off the tackle. It allows me to play at a faster speed.

JM: That’s very interesting to me. What are a few of your go-to moves?

DT: I’m always gonna threaten you with speed off the edge. I’m trying to win the edge from the very beginning. My athleticism always gives me the advantage. That’s usually my first go-to. It now depends on what the tackle is doing. I might throw in some power or some sort of combination of both. I have to mix up my rushes and throw him off his game. It allows me to mess up his timing and change up the angle of his trajectory. That’s how I try to get the tackle off his game. I watch a lot of film on tackles. Of course they’re watching a lot of film on me as well. I try to make everything look alike so they have no idea what’s coming.

JM: I love that. I’ve really appreciated your time today, Derrek. In closing, why should an NFL team use one of their draft picks on Derrek Tuszka?

DT: My versatility will be a huge asset at the next level. I can rush the passer and every team is looking to get more pressure on the quarterback. I can also drop in coverage and help in the passing game. More important than all of that, I’m a great special teams player as well. I have a strong desire to play on special teams. I have a high motor and I’m a hard worker. I feel like I’d be a great addition to any team that picks me. They’re going to be glad they took a chance on me.