I would like to thank Walt for taking the time to do this interview with me. As you'll see below, his availability hasn't been easy to come by and I am grateful for the opportunity. I hope that our exchange intrigues you to come back this weekend to read my Walt Aikens Draft Profile.
MK - What have you been up to the last few weeks?
WA - I've recently finished up with 6 private workouts and since then I've been on team visits to meet with coaches and staff. I've had 3 visits so far and I have 5 more to go this month.
MK - Wow, that's pretty amazing. Take me through the itinerary / interview process...
WA - The team visits have gone really well. You meet with the coaching staff, player personnel, the GM's and you sit down and talk to them about your journey. They just really try to get to know you. Sometimes you get on the whiteboard and you draw up some plays so they kind of test your knowledge of the game.
MK - Who's given you the best advice as a player through this pre-draft process, and what was it?
WA - I've received advice from a lot of people through this process what i have learned is that you have to try to stay as stress free as possible and just be yourself around the coaches. The draft is something that "we" as players can't control so we have to stay calm and embrace the whole process.
MK - How do you feel your pro day went? What specifically went well for you?
WA - My pro day went very well. We had 25 teams there and I hit the marks I was planning on. I was really happy with my 40 time. I ran a 4.37 and a 4.39 but the conversions were around the 4.4 range because we ran it on the track due to the weather.
MK - What do you feel are your 3 or 4 biggest strengths as a player?
WA - Aggression, size/speed, and knowledge of the game.
MK - What are the biggest strengths you have as a teammate?
WA - Reliable player with a passion for the game. Willing to put my body on the line to make plays for the team to win.
MK - Who were the best WR's you've played against? ( season or senior bowl ). What makes them hard to cover? What did you learn about your own game from playing against them?
WA - At the Senior Bowl Jaylen Saunders of Oklahoma was one of the hardest to cover because he was so small and elusive. I had to make a few adjustments and had to make sure I got hands on him when pressing to throw off the timing of the route.
MK - Talk to me about the Senior Bowl. How was that experience and how do you feel you played out there amongst better competition? Do you feel you adjusted quickly, or did you struggle a bit?
WA - The Senior Bowl experience was great. I enjoy playing against worthy competitors and being there just elevated my game to another level. I don't back down from any challenges and if there were any "big name" players there, I wanted to guard them all to show I belonged and that I would be a tough matchup for any receiver.
MK - What did you learn from the other CB's at the Senior Bowl? Was there a lot of sharing amongst the group? I'm curious because in the NFL the veteran players often teach the young guys the "tricks" so I was curious if you took some of that from other players and applied it that week?
WA - At the Senior Bowl all the CB's were very open to discuss different techniques that we use and how it works within the defense at our respective schools. But the main techniques we learned were from the Jacksonville staff because we were running their defenses in the games.
MK - Have NFL teams given you specific things to work on or asked you to improve on?
WA - Every player can improve on footwork and technique. I've been working on a lot of that in my down time as well as ball skills. I was training up at MJP (Michael Johnson Performance) in Dallas, Texas with many of the prospects in this 2014 draft as well as NFL players who are training in this off-season. I have also been working with Kevin Smith former Cowboys CB, on technique and field work.
MK - Many assume that getting dismissed from Illinois was your biggest life challenge, but was it? What was your biggest takeaway from that experience?
WA - Yes, that was probably the biggest obstacle I've had to face. That whole situation matured me and taught me not to take things for granted. It was a learning experience. It was the first "trouble" I had been in in my life and the last. Coach Ron Zook - as well as my parents - helped me get through the situation. Coach Zook fought for me every step of the way even after the school dismissed me a week into my Sophomore year. He appealed their decision and everything, because he really wanted me to stay at Illinois. I thank him for all his support.
MK - Do you feel you play angry and "with a chip on your shoulder" because of this?
WA - Yes. I do play with a chip on my shoulder. To be honest I've always played with a chip on my shoulder but since the situation at Illinois it just added some extra funk to my game! I'm just very passionate about sports and I hate to lose.
MK - I feel you have great press-man technique. Is this something you feel confident with?
WA - Yes. I'm very comfortable in press and in off coverage, but I prefer press so I can be physical at the line with wide outs.
MK - What was the best play of the season for you?
WA - My best play of the season was against Old Dominion University, I made a goal line stop on the QB while fighting off a blocker. The QB had a 10 yard window before meeting me at the goal line which led to a 4th and goal and turnover on downs.
MK - Who was your most influential coach? Why?
WA - My most influential coaches would have to be my parents. They are not only supportive but were my coaches not only in sports but in life in general. They taught me everything and instilled that killer mentality in me. They are the reason I'm the man I am today.
MK - Have you talked to the Browns?
WA - Yes. I've had good talks with the Browns at the Medal of Honor Game and at the Senior Bowl.