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Jer'Zhan Newton | 'I feel like I'm dominant'

Illinois defensive lineman Jer'Zhan Newton (4) during an NCAA football game on Friday, Sept. 8, 2023, in Lawrence, Kan. (AP Photo/Colin E. Braley)
Illinois defensive lineman Jer'Zhan Newton (4) during an NCAA football game on Friday, Sept. 8, 2023, in Lawrence, Kan. (AP Photo/Colin E. Braley)

The Washington Commanders drafted DT Jer'Zhan Newton with the No. 36 overall pick. Here is a full transcript of his phone interview with the media.

On his emotions after hearing the selection:
"Yeah, I was hella happy. I've been waiting on this moment since I was five years old, so for it to finally come, it was a dream come true."

On joining defensive tackles Daron Payne and Jonathan Allen and Head Coach Dan Quinn:
"First off appreciate it, but you talking about guys I used to watch when they was in college, so transitioning to the NFL, of course, I still watched them. Playing next to those guys, outstanding, an amazing feeling. Older guys who have had success college and in the NFL. So, I'm really happy. Like I said, I've been watching them since they we're in college, so that's a time back. I'm really happy to be playing with them."

On how his foot injury is and where he is at with rehab:
"I'm fully healed now. I'm fully ready to go. The injury happened midseason, got surgery on it in January, healed up, fully healed, then I did a Pro Day back in Illinois and ever since then I've been ready to go."

On how he would describe his game:
"I feel like I'm dominant. My football IQ is really high compared to other defensive linemen. I have a great pre-snap recognition. I know which plays coming at which down and distance, which formation brings which play. So, I just feel like my knowledge on the game is very high compared to other people."

On where his high IQ comes from:
"Just me wanting to have an extra step ahead of people in the game. [Illinois Head] Coach [Bret] Bielema, [Illinois Co-Defensive Coordinator/Defensive Line] Coach [Terrance] Jamison, [Purdue Head Coach Ryan] Walters, he's at Purdue now, and then [Illinois Defensive Coordinator] Coach [Aaron] Henry.

On if he met with the Commanders and if they were a team he was expecting:
"Yeah, they were at my Pro Day. I knew the teams at my Pro Day shared an interest in me. And I talked to them at the combine as well. So, everybody is like, you never know what to expect on draft day. So, I mean, I can't say I was expecting it, but I'm happy it happened."

On how his IQ helped him and how many times it allowed him to make plays in a game:
"It helped me out a lot. I'd probably say like four to five times a game when I could just recognize a difference in an offensive lineman's stance. And it'll help me out with knowing which play is coming right now. So again, adjusting my stance or just playing mind games with offensive lineman."

On if there is a play that stands out:
"I mean, I react to a lot of screens. I know when screens are coming right then and there. I want to say it was one play. I want to say it was Wisconsin, no, it was Northwestern. I was looking to the sideline for a play, but I knew what play they were doing already. So, I was still standing up, didn't get in my stance and still made the play."

On if there is extra motivation for him falling to the second round:
"1,000 percent. But I'm still happy that I got drafted. A lot of people don't have this opportunity. Definitely fuel to my fire and a chip on my shoulder. But I mean, that was always."

On how the Big Ten has prepared him for the NFL:
"Oh, for sure. I mean last year I went against [New York Jets T Olumuyiwa Fashanu] Olu. He was one of the top offensive linemen drafted. Played against a lot of first rounders throughout my time. And I know the Big Ten had a lot of offensive linemen that get drafted really highly. So, I feel like the competition there, you got to be physical to play in the Big Ten as well. So, for me to dominate in a very physical league, I feel like that shows my grit."

On how much he knows about Payne and Allen and if he was surprised Washington selected another defensive tackle:
"I wouldn't say surprised, like I said, you could expect anything on draft day, expect unexpected. That's always, like I said, I've been watching them since they were in college. So, I don't want to say they're old heads, but [laughs], they like OGs in the league by now. And I mean, of course my teammate from a few years back [DB] Quan Martin's on the team, so I've been watching games. I watch everybody on the defense, especially defensive line."

On if he has reached out to Martin yet:
"Nah, not yet. I've been taking pictures with the family, just excited, sharing a moment with them. But, I know me and rich homie will go link up soon."

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