COURTESY OF CINCINNATI BENGALS MEDIA RELATIONS DEPARTMENT
What were your initial impressions about the Bengals at the Senior Bowl?
"I know it was a tough year last year, but prior to that, there was a lot of success. There's a new coaching staff, and a pretty successful organization, outside of last year."
Are you more comfortable at tackle or guard?
"I'm more comfortable at tackle, but I can do either."
How comfortable are you at both tackle spots?
"I'm more comfortable at left, because I played it so much. But the guy I'm training with is working on both sides. Right tackle is never going to be the same as left, but I can still do it pretty close to the same high level."
Did you look forward to showing off your versatility at the Senior Bowl?
"It definitely helped, and it was one of the things I was looking forward to. A lot of people wanted me to move inside to guard. I worked for it, and I feel like I showed what I could do, especially considering I hadn't played the position since high school."
What was it like meeting with the Bengals' offensive line coaches?
"It was good. Coach Turner is hilarious. He's an older guy, and it was good to hear what he had to say."
Were there discussions at Kansas about moving to guard?
"Not really. My senior year, I started to train for center in case that needed to happen, but guard was never really in the picture at Kansas."
Going from being a 0-star recruit to being drafted, when did you start to see the NFL as a possibility?
"It's always been there. It's always been my dream, and I've always worked for it. I put in that time and the things necessary to be successful. In my mind, regardless of my recruitment or how other people saw me, I knew I had business being here as long as I did what I needed to do."
Did former Kansas head coach David Beaty end up recruiting you out of Garland High School?
How much do you think four years of reps played a role in your development?
"Experience is probably one of the biggest things. It's irreplaceable. There's no way to prepare for playing other than just playing. Getting all those reps was big for me in my development."
What was the process of getting to Kansas? The Air Force denied your application because of a cashew allergy?
"I was committed to the Air Force Academy — everything was going well like it was supposed to. Late June, I get an email saying my medical waiver was declined because of a cashew allergy. My brother — who played at Air Force — said it shouldn't be a problem. It ended up being a big deal. I couldn't go. But my high school coach Jeff Jordan got a job up in Kansas. He found out about this, and I was up there a week later."
Who was the toughest guy you played against in college?
"L.J. Collier. He plays with the Seattle Seahawks now. He had really good power and could access his power really well. It was deceptive in how he brought it, and he also had a twitch too."
Any reason for wearing No. 78?
"I was 79 in high school, and when I got to Kansas, that was the next closest thing. I got that and rolled with it."
You're joining a team reloading with young offensive talent. What's it like to be a part of that?
"It's great. I feel like we're starting something new. All these talented guys ... I want to come in and do my part. In a few years, you're going to see the tide turn, and we're going to be a team that shocks people."
What did being named captain mean to you?
"It was big for me, because one of the biggest privileges is having the approval of your teammates that you put in so much work in with. For them to see me as a leader and be that guy to represent them, it was a huge honor."
How much of a source of pride is your durability, having started every game all four years?
"It's a huge source of pride. I play because I love the game. My job is to go out there and be available for my teammates so I can help us win. You can't help the team win if you're not on the field. Week in and week out, I did what I had to do to be prepared — to go out there and not only play, but play at a high level."
Coaches are raving about your intelligence. What were your grades like in high school?
"They were always pretty good. My mom's Nigerian, so it's always been school before football for her. There was one time in high school I was taking an advanced class and got a C. She almost threatened to stop me from playing football. I've always been on top of my grades."
What was your class ranking?
"I was in the top 15 percent."
Did you play other sports in high school?
"I played basketball and I threw shotput and discus."
Do you watch any pros on tape? Anybody in particular?
"I watch plenty of pros on tape. I'm from the Dallas area, so I watch a lot of the Cowboys online. They have a lot of good guys to watch between Tyron Smith and Zack Martin. I'll watch other guys here and there — a guy like Trent Williams. Or guys on the Ravens' offensive line — they've got some good ones, like Ronnie Stanley."
What were your basketball numbers like? What about shotput and discus?
"My last year I think I averaged 12 (points) and 10 (rebounds), and probably a block a game. In discus, my farthest throw was a 165. In shotput, my farthest throw was like a 55. I'm an athlete (laughs)."
Did your four years in Kansas prepare you to live in a state without Whataburger?
"I forgot about that. I'm getting older, and I can't be eating Whataburger like that, so it's probably for the better."
How series is your cashew allergy? Have you ever had a reaction?
"It's pretty bad. I've had moments where I've had trace amounts of cashews, and it causes a pretty significant reaction. So, if I were to have any substantial amount, even like half of a cashew, it would not be good. Maybe fatal."
Did you brother play at Air Force?
"He played guard. He went in as a defensive end, but then switched him."
Did he have the allergy too? "He doesn't."
How did you discover that you had it?
"It's hard to remember my first reaction, but I've had my fair share, maybe five or six or seven (times). It's funny now, I can almost sense cashews. It's weird. I can taste them in food pretty quick. I can't remember the first time (I reacted), but I thought (I was allergic) to more than just cashews, but we ended up getting it tested, and it was just cashews and pistachios. They (the two types of nuts) are related."
What are the symptoms?
"My tongue will start tingling, my lips will get itchy, my throat will swell up, and I'll start sweating."
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