The Redskins drafted middle linebacker H.B. Blades of Pittsburgh in the sixth round (179th overall) of the 2007 NFL Draft. The 5-10, 236-pounder is the son of Bennie Blades, a former University of Miami standout and NFL player. His uncles Brian and Al Blades also played at Miami and in the NFL. H.B. Blades spoke with Redskins.com and discussed joining the Redskins.
Q: To any degree, H.B., did you expect to get drafted by the Redskins?
A: "They called me [last week] and talked to me, so I thought it may be a possibility. But I went into the draft with an open mind. Everything worked out for the best. I think this is a great situation I'm going to be in and I want to make the most of my opportunity."
Q: Was it hard waiting until the sixth round to get picked?
A: "It was hard. When you sit here and watch it on TV, you see some guys that really didn't do much in college get drafted. They just ran a fast 40 and their name pops up on the screen before yours. I was upset, but there is nothing you can do about it. It's already in the past. I am ready to get into [Rookie Camp] and prove to Coach [Joe] Gibbs and the whole Redskins coaching staff that I was the right pick."
Q: It still must be gratifying, though. What are your thoughts about coming to Washington?
A: "I'm very happy and excited just to go to Washington and help out the team. I'll do whatever coaches ask of me--special teams, anything. I just want to do what I can to help the team win games."
Q: Do you know anybody on the Redskins? Are you viewing this as a fresh start?
A: "Yeah, it's a fresh start for me. I've known Santana [Moss] for a long time because he played at the University of Miami with my uncle Al. I used to work out in Miami with him and my uncle during the summers when I was in high school getting ready to take the next step to college."
Q: What would you say was the highlight of your career at Pitt?
A: "Winning the Big East championship. We were the first team to win a Big East championship in school history. That was a great moment for me personally and my team."
Q: Your dad and uncles were standout players at the University of Miami. Why did you decide to go to Pitt?
A: "I wanted to make a name for myself. I wanted a brand new start in a new location. It is kind of hard to top what my dad and uncle did. I didn't want it to be a competition among my family. We are all proud of each other, no matter what we do. That is why I decided to go somewhere else. Pittsburgh is a great place. I had a great time. We won a lot of games, went to BCS games and I broke a lot of records. It was a great decision for me."
Q: What do you feel are your strengths as a middle linebacker?
A: "My instincts, having a nose for the football, making plays and making tackles. I have great desire and I've prided myself on being a good tackler. I don't feel like I have any major weaknesses, but I need to work with my hands a little bit more [to fend off blockers]."
Q: Do you view it as a positive to have an uncle and father who played in the NFL? Or did you get a feel it was harder because of that?
A: "It was a little of both. Some people liked it and some people put greater expectations on me because of it. Ultimately, it came down to how I played on the field. That is what I always talk about. I may be a sixth round pick, but put me on the field with anyone and I am going to make plays."
Q: Did people expect you to be as gifted as your dad and your uncle?
A: "They don't expect me to be because they know I am not as gifted of an athlete as my dad and uncle were. My dad was the third pick overall in the 1988 draft. He was a physical freak. I know what I am. I play with a lot of desire and heart. I play with my instincts. God gave me a gift to be able to read and diagnose plays fast. That is what I use to my advantage."
Q: You're coming into a situation where the Redskins just signed a veteran middle linebacker in London Fletcher. Do you view this as an opportunity to learn from him, learn the defense and, if everything works out, earn playing time in the future?
A: "Yeah, that's exactly how I'm viewing it. I see myself as a young London Fletcher. He's a very productive linebacker and he's been doing it for years. So I can come in and play behind somebody like him is an honor. I look up to people like London Fletcher and Zach Thomas, those linebackers with smaller stature, just because I know what it's like to be that. They know what it's like--and it was even harder for them in the past, just because smaller linebackers were not common. So to get an opportunity to learn from a veteran like him--you can't put a price on that. I'm going to listen to everything that he tells me and teaches me."
Q: Does London Fletcher's success in the league give you encouragement that height doesn't matter in the NFL?
A: "Oh, it gives me a lot of encouragement. I can go in and they aren't going to see my height as an issue. As long as I go in, make plays and work hard, I will have a spot on the roster. That is all you can ask for."