PHOTO: Arkansas fullback DeCori Birmingham, right, outruns Kentucky's Muhammad Abdullah (42) to the endzone to score the final touchdown of the game on a 25-yard run in the seventh overtime at Commonwealth Stadium in Lexington, Ky., Saturday, Nov. 1, 2003. Arkansas won 71-63. (AP Photo/Garry L. Jones)
Q & A - DeCori Birmingham: Part 1
By Rick Popolizio
According to NFL scouts, DeCori Birmingham could serve as a potential third down back, a backup wide receiver or a special teams player returning kicks in the NFL. However, the twenty-two year old undrafted Birmingham feels that he can make a mark in this league. As a member of the Arkansas Razorbacks, he amassed 3,610 total yards during his college career, the fifth highest Razorback total in history. Now the 5'10 210 pound Birmingham has his sights set on earning a spot on the Patriots roster for the 2005 season.
PI: Growing up through high school and college, who has been your greatest teacher? And what did they teach you in particular, either in life or on the field?
DB: Growing up, my parents put a lot of time and love in me. They made me the man that I am, to be dedicated and work hard for everything that I get. My dad and grandfather, they were both pretty good football players. They helped me understand the concept of football.
PI: During high school, you were named the No. 16 player overall in the nation by David Garvin's Longhorn Link. How did you feel when you heard that?
DB:I was pretty happy and excited to be out of the state of Texas and the number 15 player. It's something you don't want to get a big head about, but it's nice that people other than those in your community are noticing you.
PI: You are said to be a possible third down back, a backup wide receiver, or a special teams player returning kicks in the NFL. Where and how do you believe you fit into this analysis of your potential?
DB: I feel that I could be a third down back. My role as a patriot is to learn this system and do what I can to benefit the team. There are a lot of great athletes on this team. I'm a rookie now so I'm trying to do the best I can to learn this offense because that is the first thing you gotta do.
PI: How do you think you progressed during your college years, personally and professionally?
DB: I progressed pretty good. My freshman year, I saw limited action and dealt with it the best I could. Sophomore and junior year I progressed real well. I stepped in and played running back junior year. My progression has been real tremendous from high school to college. I've learned a lot about growing up and time management.
PI: Do you feel like you are ready for the NFL? What do you feel are your strengths and weaknesses?
DB: I feel like I am. Physically, I know I am ready. I think the hardest thing is learning a totally different system, to think on the run. There is so much more to the game of football at the NFL level than college. You need to know what D linemen to follow, and what the entire defense is doing to make a play work. Mentally, I am kind of shaky, and I am trying to work on that now.
PI: How do you think you could fit into the Patriots roster?
DB: Right now I am just trying to make the team. Anywhere they want me, that's where I'll play. As a rookie you just gotta do the best you can to fit in. Right now I'm playing running back but who knows, that might change. So right now, I'm trying to be the best running back I can be. I want to have a future here because it is a great team with great players, but it all comes down to how well I prepare and how well I do.
PI: Where do you see the Patriots running game at right now? Would you add something to it?
DB: Yeah. I feel like I could. They have won Super Bowls with the backs they have, and I feel like I bring a lot of different things to the table. Right now I'm just kind of in the back watching guys that go out every Sunday, guys that are the best at what they do, proven champions. There's a very slim chance for a rookie to make an immediate impact, so I'm at a learning stage now. I'll continue to think about this. As gifted as I am athletically, it doesn't do any good if you don't know what's going on out there, so I'm trying to learn everything so I can play to the best of my potential.
PI: As a member of the Razorbacks, you were part of some great finishes. How do you recall the seven overtime victories against Ole Miss in 2001 and Kentucky in 2003?
DB: Those games were history making games and for me to be involved was real special to me. I was a true freshman [during the Ole Miss game], and it was a seasaw, up and down game. We went through a lot of adversity, but if you keep fighting and do what you gotta do you'll come out on top. I caught the game winning two point conversation. It was tremendous. [Against Kentucky], it was the first time I got to play running back as a starter, and I felt I did really well in that game. There's something about those games and how you perform in them that sets the tone for the rest of your life.
PI: You made big, clutch plays in those games, establishing yourself in Arkansas football history. Do you believe that coming through in clutch situations is something you thrive in? Might your ability to be a clutch-performer catch eyes in the NFL?
DB: To me I feel like that shows I don't really crack under pressure. If there is adversity during a game, coaches can look at tape and say he's cool and keeps his composure. But that's so far down the line for me. I felt I did pretty good during mini camp. It's such a humbling experience being here with all these guys, so I don't feel like I could say I could be the go to guy right now because there's so much to learn.
PI: So how is mini camp going?
DB: I felt [mini camp] went real good so far. All the guys were out flying around and there's been a lot of learning going on. I'm getting a feel for the team, and to me this was a dream come true to participate in something like this. I feel like the rookies got a lot accomplished, and we talk everyday after practice. Everyone is in such good spirit. We (rookies) watch and try to mimic the older guys. It's a good time to be out there playing football. To me it's the greatest game in world. At times it was a little hot out there, but I felt [camp] went real good this year.
Look for Part 2 of the Interview with DeCori Birmingham tomorrow on PatriotsInsider.com
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