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The NFL Draft begins its three-day even on Thursday evening at 7:30 p.m. on ESPN and a number of potential picks finished their collegiate careers for the Cavaliers in 2009. sat down with three of those potential draft picks, asking offensive lineman Will Barker, defensive lineman Nate Collins and fullback Rashawn Jackson a few questions about the upcoming draft and their experiences thus far.

Question: Starting out, the NFL changed to a three-day format for the draft. Where are you guys going to be this weekend and do you have any special plans?
Collins: I’ll be shifting back and forth between Connecticut and New York – that’s where the majority of my family is. Friday night and Saturday morning I’ll most likely be in Bridgeport, Conn., with my family and I have a couple of guys coming up with me and a lot of my high school friends, so it should be a good, fun weekend.
Jackson: Same with me, I am going to be home with my family. We are probably going to have a barbecue Saturday and just spend the time together. We actually planned that before we knew the draft was going to be three days – so that should be a good time.
Barker: I also will be at home with my family in Philadelphia just hanging out at watching.

Question: What has this whole experience been like for you guys?
Collins: It’s been a dream come true. This is something I’ve been waiting for, dreaming about, thinking about, and talking about since I was a little kid. As a kid when you play Pop Warner football, you always imagine that every game is the NFL and it’s just so surreal to me that all this is happening right now. I’m chasing my dreams and I’m two or three days away from taking my game to the next level and playing in the NFL.
Jackson: For me It’s been breathtaking. Its an absolute blessing I am very grateful and I am making the most out of the opportunity. It’s just hard work and dedication.
Barker: It’s been fun for sure. It has definitely been an experience doing training for 11 weeks – visiting different teams across the country and all the phone calls and things like that. It’s been fun and it’s been exciting. I’m starting to get a little anxious.

Question: Has there been anything surprising about the process?
Barker: I think the thing that most intrigued me was some of the physicals I took were pretty expansive. It makes sense – they want to know everything about you if they’re going to invest in you. With all the different teams, everyone has their own physical and their own methods.
Collins: Not really. For me it’s just cool to go on visits and you see guys that you’ve been watching on TV for the past five, six or even more years and you see them working out and they’re coming up to greet you, and things like that. Guys that you sit around with watching on Sundays with your college roommates are all of a sudden saying hi. Now in a few months I’m going to be walking through the same locker room with these guys and it’s just surreal.
Jackson: Nothing unusual – I have a bunch of friends who are in the NFL now, so being around those guys I hear them talk about their experience. Some people get a little more than others depending on their projection, but other than that it’s generally the same.

Question: You all played in a bowl game strictly for seniors designed to showcase your skills in an NFL-type environment. Talk about your experiences in your respective bowl and any differences from the college game.
Jackson: I had a lot of fun taking part in the Senior Bowl. I loved it and I had a good time. Being around guys at that competition level gave me a lot of confidence. Not only that but dealing with NFL coaches and working with Coach Sam Gash (Detroit Lions) – he really gave me tips to help fine-tune my game.
Barker: For me the biggest thing was that our offensive line coach played in the NFL and obviously every coach is going to have different methods for teaching – but his seemed to be more of the pro-style. Just with play calls, the way practice was run – it kind of gave you a taste of what it could be like. I thought that was a great asset.
Collins: There really wasn’t a big difference. Playing with the D-line out there made it really seem like every other game to me. I got to spend time with those guys, and do some community service and get to know some of the guys and I’m still friends with a lot of the guys that I played with and against in East-West Shrine game. It was just a good time and it’s good to be in a situation where I play with a group of guys that are all trying to chase the same goal. It’s good competition and it’s good football, and I had a great time. I think that I’ll meet all of those guys again, some of them may even be my teammates. It’s all coming together for us.

Question: What’s the best advice you’ve received going through this process and who was it from?
Barker: It was probably from my agent. He said, “Show people the athlete and the person that you’re striving to be.” It took five years of work to get to where I am now, and now it comes down to 72 hours. Be proud, be confident, and be happy with yourself. You’ve done everything you can do.
Collins: The best advice I got was from Coach Groh, we spoke before this whole process and he told me just to only try and control things I can control. He told me that when I was in the process of dealing with whether or not I was going to get to play or not, he said that you’re going to get your opportunity and when you do, just don’t give it up – you just have to focus on blocks and doing what you do when you get onto the field and pay attention in the classroom and learn as much football as you can. I really took that to heart and during this whole process that’s what I’ve been doing. Things haven’t gone the way that I expected or wanted, but at the same time if I just focus on my goal of being the best defensive tackle that I can be and keep perfecting my game, then at the end of the day when it’s all said and done, when I get my opportunity I’ll be ready.
Jackson: Probably my high school coach Rich Hansen and Coach Groh too – before I came to UVa [my high school coach] said there are two types of statistics. You can be a negative statistic or a positive statistic. He helped me be a part of the positive statistic. Coach Groh taught me about persistence. In the NFL things aren’t always going to go your way so you need to be persistent and you need to be confident. Those two pieces of advice carried me a long way – of course with hard work. As long as I am doing the right things, I don’t see a recipe for failure at all.

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