By: Shaun DePasquale (@ShaunDoesDraft)
Interview by Damond Talbot (@Drocksthaparty)
The preseason has been a brutal one for the New York Jets. Hounded by a QB controversy- or perhaps the lack thereof- it has been downright embarassing for the entire organization. Seemingly nothing has gone right. But one thing is for sure…they got a steal in free agency with Lehigh WR Ryan Spadola. A decorated college performer with good size and 4.4 speed (which he displayed at the NFL Combine in February), it was literally puzzling to see Spadola go un-picked through the 7 round draft in April. Since signing with the Jets immediately after the draft commenced, Spadola has been a revelation- culminating in a breakout week 3 preseason performance, 3 catches for 110 yards with a touchdown reception. Damond Talbot and myself were longtime fans of Spadola, and the following is a candid pre-draft interview Damond conducted with Spadola.
This year Ryan Spadola, didn’t have the senior campaign he and others expected him to have. The wideout played three games under the weather — finally being diagnosed with mononucleosis and the illness kept him out for two additional weeks. Despite missing time, Spadola still led Lehigh (10-1) in receptions (57) and receiving yards (851) to go along with his four touchdowns. He had 96 catches for 1,614 yards and 11 TDs as a junior. Spadola is a 6’3 wide out who is going to not just turn heads at the Combine, he could break necks. This kid is a very good possession receiver who will get a chance in a few weeks to prove he belongs in the NFL. I expect him to ball out when given a chance.
Q: How many teams were recruiting you coming out of high school and how did you make your decision?
A: About five colleges were recruiting me out of high school. My decision to go to Lehigh came primarily from the connection I made with the players and coaches. The strong tradition and pride within the program was something I wanted to become apart of.
Q: Has it always been your dream to be an NFL football player?
A: Ever since I buckled my first chinstrap back in Pop Warner, it has always been a dream of mine to become an NFL football player. Over the years, football has become such a large part of my life and now it is hard to see myself doing something other than play the game I love.
Q: Who was your favorite NFL team growing up and did you have a player you rooted for?
A: As strange as it may sound, I never really had a favorite team growing up. I just looked forward to close competitive games. Although I didn’t have a favorite team, my favorite player growing up was Randy Moss. His ability to make big time plays for his team was something I liked seeing.
Q: At your position, how do you break down film? Please inform our readers what you look for when breaking down film.
A: When breaking down film, the first thing I look for is the different type of coverage shells the opposing team has. From that, I look at the different schemes they tend to have to different receiver formations. Once I know what type of looks I may get for certain formations and plays, I then break down the play of the different defensive backs, primarily the cornerback and safety that will be to my side of the ball most of the game. I see if they tend to be on the aggressive or passive side and from that I look to see what kind of success prior receivers have had on them. I try to find the little weaknesses in their play that will give me an advantage when going up against them.
Q: What is the best accolade/award you have ever received from playing football?
A: The best accolade/award I have ever received was Consensus 1stTeam All-American following my Junior season.
Q: Now that your college football eligibility is up, what’s your next move?
A: Now that my career as a college football player is up, my next move is to start preparing for the upcoming NFL Combine in February and the pro day in March.
Q: When did you really feel you had a good chance of making your dream come true?
A: After my sophomore season at Lehigh, I began to feel like I had a good chance of making my dream come true. After the successful season the team and myself had that year, I sat down with my coach and he told me of the potential I had. From that meeting, I worked hard to get better and now I am in a position to make my dream become a reality.
Q: What is your favorite food?
A: Sushi by far is my favorite food.
Q: Do you have any pre game rituals?
A: I never really had pre game rituals besides the normal warm-up routines and playlist I listen to.
Q: What would you tell NFL teams that are weary of taking a late-round flyer on you?
A: I would say I deserve their pick. Everything I have achieved up to date has come through tons of hard work. I am used to working hard for everything and that is a mindset that will never change. I am a player who has proven to be productive at his position and a player who has been versatile on the field playing special teams as well. At the end of the day, I will do whatever it takes to become a better player and, most importantly, help the team win football games.
Q: If you could compare your play to someone in the NFL, who would it be?
A: If I could compare my play to someone in the NFL, I would say Donald Driver. Like myself, Donald Driver came from a small school and has proven he can play with the best. He is admired for his toughness and passion for the game, two traits I feel I possess.
Q: Who has had your back through the good and the bad as you’ve moved on balancing life as a student-athlete?
A: Like many people, my mom has always had my back through the good and bad times throughout my life. Even when others had doubt in me, she always supported me. Whether I was acknowledged for accomplishments on or off the field, she was always the first to congratulate me.
Q: What’s your plan if you go undrafted?
A: If I go undrafted I plan to get picked up as a free agent and work as hard as I can to make an NFL team.
Q: Everyone asks this question, but I’m curious to know what will you buy first with your first NFL pay check?
A: Since I am not a flashy person, my first purchase probably wouldn’t be for myself but for my mom. I would send her off on vacation or get her something that would enable her to relax. Being that she has been a single mother raising three kids for several years now, she deserves time to take time for herself.
Q: Finish this sentence for me, come July 2013 I will ….. playing receiver for an NFL team doing whatever I can to help the team win a Super Bowl.
I would like to thank Ryan for this terrific interview and wish you the best in all your upcoming events. If you would like to follow Ryan, you can do so on twitter at @dolaocho.