Former Northwestern Wildcat defensive tackle John Gill was not invited to this year's NFL Combine. However, after an impressive Pro Day, Gill seems to have improved his draft stock by putting up numbers that would have competed with the top ten defensive tackles at the Combine. How has Gill been preparing for the Draft? How does he reflect on his college career under Coach Pat Fitzgerald and the Cats' strong 2008 season?
This, and more, on Player Spotlight with John Gill, hosted by John Sears.
Where are you calling from today?
Gill: I am calling from my house in Evanston. I’m still at school at Northwestern so I am living in the same house.
Are you finishing up your degree?
Gill: I am going to graduate this quarter. I am taking four classes and will graduate in June.
Your last classes—are they 600-level physical chemistry and physics?
Gill: [laughs] No, not that hard. I am just a communications major, so I am taking three communications classes and one elective.
Your elective must be ballroom dancing, but you don’t have to admit it.
Looking at your 2008 statistics, it seems like you had a lot of tackles per game. How did you do that from the interior of the defensive line?
Gill: I do that by just trying to stay as active as I can, trying to get off blocks as fast as I can and just running to the ball. At Northwestern, we pride ourselves on everybody getting to the ball.
What was your best game in 2008?
Gill: I’d probably say the Michigan game. I had quite a few tackles...I think a sack and a couple tackles-for-loss.
Tell me about your Pro Day—give me your measurements and how you think they compared to those who did attend the Combine.
Gill: First of all, my 40 I ran a 4.90, which was a good time for a guy my size as I weigh in at 302. It was a good time compared to other defensive tackles…it was a time I was happy with. I got a 4.4 or something in the 20-yard shuttle. It was a good time, I think to get. I think it would have been the fastest time at the Combine for the tackles and it was a good time compared to other tackles in other Pro Days. Same with the three-cone—I ran a 7.14, which I think would have been the fastest time at the Combine for the tackles. I got 29 reps in the bench, which was kind of average I think. One guy got 37 reps. So it was nothing too special there. And I got 31.5” in the vertical, which would have been decent; I think it would have been average. So my two best were the 3-cone and the 20-yard shuttle. Everything else was good, but nothing spectacular.
Terrance Taylor, the defensive tackle from Michigan, was the guy you were referring to who got 37 reps down at the Combine. But at Michigan’s Pro Day, Will Johnson did 47 reps.
Last time I could bench 225 once was about five years ago…
When was the last time you could bench 225 only once?
Gill: I don’t even know. A long time ago.
I see you as 6’3”, 302, right?
Your favorite pre-game ritual is listed as “eating”. I thought that was a little redundant for a 300-lb man to say.
Gill: [laughs] Well we pretty much have the same meals before games. It’s some really good beef—I eat a lot of that. And then I have clam chowder in a bread bowl and finish off with some cheesecake. That’s my favorite meal the night before a game. And right before the game I eat a small breakfast.
Oh, that was dinner the night before. I thought this was your pre-game meal. There’s no way you would hold that down the day of a game, right?
Gill: [laughs] I actually tried doing that once when I was a freshman and it didn’t work out too well—I threw up during the game.
[laughs] How do you see yourself projecting in the draft—mid-rounds or later rounds?
Gill: Right now it sounds like a late round pick, if even a pick at all. I am just being honest. But probably, realistically, I would say 4th round or later just from what I have heard.
Any particular team you would want to play for?
Gill: I grew up a 49er fan just because I am from that area. But in terms of playing for a team, I’ll go anywhere for a team that will give me a chance.
I have heard comparisons made between you and Luis Castillo and Barry Cofield. Are you similar to them or anyone else in the NFL?
Gill: I have heard the comparisons to Luis and Barry. I just hope that I could have careers like them in the NFL. They are both doing really well. I am not them though; I am just trying to give myself the best chance to be successful. It’s an honor to be compared to them.
Walk me through your bowl game with Missouri. It looked like you had some chances to put them away and fell short.
Gill: As a defense, we just wanted to slow them down as much as possible. We had a couple of chances to win that game, but a couple of mistakes here and there late in the game cost us the game. I give all the credit in the world to them [Missouri], they played really well when it counted. But it was a close game. Just late in the game, we didn’t make a couple of plays and it cost us.
Jeremy Maclin’s punt return was a turning point it seemed. Did you feel the wind knocked out of you after that play?
Gill: We tried not to think about it as a defense. We weren’t on the field, so we couldn’t control it. But as a punt team, we pride ourselves on not giving up big returns. But for some reason…he [Maclin] is an incredibly fast guy…we just couldn’t contain him on that one play. That was kind of a turning point in the game. Our whole team was playing well up until that point and there seemed to be a change in momentum.
What do you like to do outside of football?
Gill: [laughs] I know this is kind of about football, but I really like working out. I work out when I don’t really have to…Other than football and school right now, I really don’t do too much.
I guess that’s a good thing for people to know though, that you enjoy working out and you have that work ethic. I guess that’s why you are 300-pound boy.
What are you most looking forward to heading toward the NFL?
Gill: Just a chance to be able to play football again. You go through a lot of stuff to try and get into the NFL and a lot of it is not football. A lot of it is testing, interviews…I’m just looking forward to playing football again.
Probably tired of talking to people like us.
Gill: [laughs] No, no, no, not that. Just…
I would be, so don’t worry about it. That’s ok.
Photo Credit: Stephen J. Carrera