MARVIN LEWIS (Head coach) and MIKE ZIMMER (Defensive coordinator) and JEFF FITZGERALD (Linebackers coach)
ML: You can see by the smiles, we’re very excited to have picked Rey (Maualuga). He obviously is a player that plays at a very, very high level. As you looked at the guys last year that were coming out of S.C., you kept wondering who that No. 58 guy was. To be sitting here a year later with him on our football team is really exciting. We had a chance to be around him for a week (at the Senior Bowl) in Mobile (Ala.), and he didn’t disappoint us, even though he was on the other team. Part of us deciding to go coach the game was I figured we would have those (USC) guys on our team, but for the first time in the history of the senior bowl, S.C. played for the South for some reason. We’re just excited to have him. He has been a player at a high level, and he has made a lot of football plays. He has a great nose for the football.
Q: Rey had to be pretty high on your draft board:
ML: Yeah, he was pretty high. I don’t know why he was still there, but he was, and we’re excited. It’s great. We actually had a couple players (to choose from) there, so we felt good as we worked through the end of the round that it was going to work out pretty well in our favor. It’s just that you just don’t want to be drafting this high. Let’s get drafting at the bottom (of the rounds).
Q: Can you talk about what you’ve seen from Rey and what you expect from him?
MZ: The thing that impressed me the most when I was watching was, for a big guy, they say he doesn’t move that well, but every time I saw a running back go to the perimeter, he sucked them down. One of the interceptions he made is probably on his highlight film, and he ran it back into the end zone for a touchdown. Those were terrific plays. He has played with great players around him. He’s played against great competition. I love the way the Polynesian players approach the game. They love football. I think we have some other guys here that will help steer him in the right direction. When I talked to him at the Senior Bowl, we knew he was ranked pretty high, so we sat down and visited with him. He was very humble, but he’s very hungry. He said all the right things.
JF: Rey’s a wonderful pick for us. I’m extremely excited about having him. He’s going to be a great mix to throw in with our guys in the room. He’s going to fit. He obviously has familiarity with playing with Keith (Rivers) for two of his three starting years. I think the thing with Rey Maualuga is the fact that he wasn’t what you would call a ‘measurable guy’ in terms of his testing scores, whether it’s broad jump, his 40 time — things of that nature. What he does though, is play ball. At times you want to put a clock on him and do things of that nature. But when I went to S.C. and had the opportunity to work him out along with their other guys, that was what it’s all about for him — the football drills. And he was excellent at it. It’s the way he plays football. He’s a great inside linebacker who could probably play anywhere across the board.
Q: There seems to be a trend with the first two picks. These are excellent football players:
ML: They’re excellent football players and guys that have helped their teams win a lot of games. They’ve been looked upon on their teams as the best players and the leaders. So, again, we’re gaining a couple guys in here, who lost, what? Two, three games between them in the last two or three years? So that’s pretty good, and I think that makes a big difference as well.
Q: Has Keith Rivers called you yet?
JF: I don’t know. I don’t keep my cell phone in my pocket during meetings. I’ll expect to have some messages when I get back to the office.
Q: Did you talk to Rivers at all about Maualuga?
JF: Yeah. We asked him what it was like to play with him — what type of player he is. When the intensity is cranked up, what kind of player is he? Which way will he turn? And everything was positive.
Q: Is he a starter?
ML: No. We’ll get Rey here and see where we’re playing at and go from there.
Q: Can he play all three linebacker positions?
ML: Yeah, we think he can.
Q: In terms of rushing the passer and stopping the run, what are the things he is good at?
ML: He is an excellent blitzer. He plays well with everything they have asked him to do. He has played in space and in the coverage downs, and he can run with the skilled positions. We are gaining a guy who has played in different spots on the football field.
MZ: The defense at USC is a complicated defense too. He’s played against spread offensives, and offensives that run the ball. All those things are good for him.
Q: You have someone (Rivers) who has just made the exact same transition:
ML: Yeah. Rivers came here and we put him right on the spot. And Rey is in that same spot right now. He’ll be able to make the transition smoothly. I have a great vision. We’ve been talking about him all week.
Q: So he is a guy that you considered moving up to the first round for?
ML: If we backed up in the first round, he is a guy we would have considered, yes.
Q: So today is a good day?
ML: Yes. We have two new guys who love to play football.