BOSTON (CBS) — It’s hard to fault a kid for getting excited about joining the defending Super Bowl champs.
To say Derek Rivers was excited about being drafted by the New England Patriots on Friday night would be an understatement.
Here’s what the defensive end out of Youngstown State had to say on a conference call after being drafted by the Patriots with the 83rd overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, (transcript courtesy of the New England Patriots):
Question: What was your immediate reaction when the Patriots selected you?
Derek Rivers: Man, I was shaking. It was an overwhelming feeling. To God be the glory. It’s all because of him. So that was awesome. It was a blessing.
Question: It seemed like you had a lot of pre-draft contact with the Patriots. Did you have any idea they were going to take you?
DR: No sir, not at all. Like I said, I had a visit with them. I met with Coach [Bill] Belichick and everybody on the staff. I mean, other than that, I had no idea.
Question: What was that meeting like with Coach Belichick?
DR: It was awesome, man. I mean, we talked ball. I love Coach Belichick. I love everything he is and what he stands for and how he coaches, his demeanor. I mean, he’s an awesome dude, man. I could learn a lot from him.
Question: How would you describe yourself as a player?
DR: I mean, I’m a hard worker. You get work ethic out of me. I do whatever the coaches want me to do, and that’s the type of guy I am.
Question: How much did Coach [Bo] Pelini help you develop this past year and how important was he in this process?
DR: Bo was awesome, man. He was like another father to me as far as when he came to Youngstown. I mean, he took our team to another level. Just the little things that he focused on as far as accountability, doing all the little things right – I mean, those were the things that Bo emphasized and those were the things that Bo instilled in me. He’s an awesome coach. I mean, he’s a great dude, great guy. I could call him. Throughout this process, he was always there for me, my teammate Avery Moss and all the other guys at Youngstown that were going through this process, as well.
Question: How did you end up at Youngstown State in the first place? Did many FBS schools recruit you out of high school?
DR: No, so out of high school, I was a non-qualifier, so I didn’t get my SATs, and then I was just a late bloomer. I wasn’t very heavily recruited so I went to Fork Union [Military Academy] and then Youngstown came and they offered me, and I was just ready to play ball.
Question: Why did you decide to stay at Youngstown?
DR: I mean, because I love Youngstown. I loved every coach that I had come through here. I loved the city. And I knew it really didn’t matter what school you went to. It just mattered what you did on the field.
Question: What did you feel like you had to do during the pre-draft process to let coaches know your skill set would translate to a higher level of competition?
DR: Just play football. Don’t go out there and try to do too much. Just play football, honestly, man. Just go on out there and playing your game and playing as hard as you possibly can and doing all you can and leaving the rest in the Lord’s hands. [When] you go out there and play for the Lord, it’s different. You let him handle the rest.
Question: How important do you think the Senior Bowl was for you?
DR: I mean, for an FCS guy, it’s very important because everyone questions level of competition. I mean, it was an awesome experience for me. I loved it. We only get to play guys from the FBS level once a year. So when I got to practice with some of those guys and actually play with some of those guys that I see on TV, on ESPN, playing, it was pretty cool, man. I loved it.
Question: Could you sense at that time that you were catching the eye of more NFL teams than you were during the season?
DR: No sir, honestly. So much stuff goes on during that week that honestly all you do is think about practice and you just think about trying to get better, learning from the coaches and just playing your best for those three or four days.
Question: Did you watch the Super Bowl?
DR: Yes sir, I definitely did.
Question: What are your thoughts on joining the team that won Super Bowl LI?
DR: Man, it’s awesome. It’s awesome. I’m super excited. I mean, there’s just so much I can learn from those guys that were there, as far as just the commitment that those guys have, the type of coaching that’s in that locker room. I’m just ready to learn from those guys and get better with those guys.
Q: What type of player are the Patriots getting in you?
DR: Like I said, I’m work ethic. No. 1, my faith in God is what got me here. And then, besides that, he gave me my work ethic. So I’m work ethic. I do more than what’s just asked of me, and that’s the type of player they get – a guy that he does more than what’s just asked of them and he does everything that the coaches want him to do. I listen to whatever my coaches need me to do. I’m going to do it. I’m going to do it 100 percent.
Question: How important was being a non-qualifier and going to prep school before Youngstown in developing your work ethic as a football player?
DR: Oh man, it’s huge, and that’s one thing that Coach Bo really told [us]. That was the first thing that Coach Bo said in his first meeting with us when he got to Youngstown was that he was like, ‘What you do off the field is going to reflect on how you play on the field.’ So I was a non-qualifier in high school. At Youngstown, I’m probably going to graduate with a 3.0, and it makes sense. If you’re lazy off the field, you’re going to be lazy on the field. If you miss assignments in class, you may miss assignments on the field, so they translate. I mean, they correlate.
Question: Did any NFL teams show interest in you as an off-the-line linebacker given your size and athleticism?
DR: Yes sir. There were a couple teams, some 3-4 teams, that showed more interest in linebacker than defensive end.
Question: Do you have any experience as a linebacker?
DR: I mean, in high school I played linebacker a lot. My junior year, I played a little bit of linebacker. And then we stood up a lot, a good bit this year. I mean, we peeled on a couple backs every now and again, but for the most part, I mean, not too much. Like I said, the past four years I had my hand in the dirt, so that’s about it.
Question: Do you feel like you might need to put on any weight to play at the NFL level?
DR: Like I said, I’ll do whatever the coaches need me to do. If they need me to put on weight, I’ll put on weight. If they like me where I’m at, I’ll play where I’m at. So it’s whatever the coaches want me to do.
Question: Tell us about how you ended up with No. 11 as your jersey number.
DR: I have a cousin that plays basketball overseas. He’s like my brother. He wears No. 11, so that’s kind of how I got the jersey No. 11. I just kept it through high school and then on to Youngstown.
Question: Have you ever run into Brandon Ingram?
DR: Yes sir. He was a freshman when I was a senior, so we were on the same team.
Question: How did you do when you played against him?
DR: How did I do when I played against him? I mean, at the time, he was probably about 6-4, 6-5. The kid grew like three inches that season. He was shorter than me at the beginning of the season. By the end of the season, he was taller than me, but at that time, I could take him down low in the post. Now, it would be a totally different story. I mean, Brandon was always good. He was always a good player.
Question: What are your thoughts on being one of the highest drafted players from Youngstown?
DR: Like I said, to God be the glory. It’s a blessing. It’s a huge blessing. Like I said, I’m going to cherish this moment. Like I said, it’s all for him. He gets all the glory, all the honor. I mean, that’s what that means. It’s all from him.