We caught up with Jets safety
On Sunday you played in your first NFL game. What was the day like for you?
I was just trying to get mentally prepared for the packages that I was getting in on and just hoping to come out and execute my job right, make sure I had no mistakes and just play football, basically.
What was your initial reaction? Because it wasn’t just your first NFL game but you also got to start the game.
It was pretty sweet. It was a shock for me because as soon as I got on the field, whatever my package was, they called it. I was like "What? Dang! I’m not even supposed to be here right now." But it was really exciting. I got to get my first start and I was just excited and motivated at the same time.
How far ahead did they tell you that you were going to start?
It was instant. Right there on the field, point blank, boom, "Here you go, Antonio." But I stepped up to the plate and did everything I had to do, so it was a pretty positive day.
What were your emotions heading into the game? Were you nervous? Excited?
I was a little bit more excited than nervous. I was itching to play, just to be on the field with these guys. We’ve got a whole bunch of veteran guys who are awesome and they’ve been in the spotlight. So I’m pretty sure they were familiar with my situation. I just had to come in and execute.
You picked up a sack in the game. So overall how did you think your first NFL game turned out?
I feel like it’s a lot more to come further down the road. It’s just one sack. I've just got to keep it up and continue to get better.
Were any friends or family members able to make the game?
Oh, yeah. My mom, my auntie, sister, cousins came down. I had quite a bit of people there.
Anybody coming to New England Sunday?
No, not anybody this week. It’s an away game.
How many people texted, called, or somehow got in touch with you to congratulate you after Sunday?
After the game, I had a number of texts saying, "Good job. We’re proud of you. We knew you could do it."
Did it take you a while to respond to all of those texts?
It did. But it’s just about focus, not getting down on yourself, staying ahead of the game and just waiting on your turn, basically.
What did you take away most from your time on the practice squad?
I really think it humbled me a lot. At [training] camp I was doing a lot of talking because I already thought I was on the team, you know? But I would say it humbled me for the most part.
Do you feel like you’ve earned a little more respect in this locker room being on the active roster now?
The way I see it, everything is pretty much the same. It’s no different at all.
You played some linebacker at South Carolina but also safety. Do you have a preference on position?
I don’t have a preference. I just feel like I’m a football player and wherever spot you put me at on the field, I’m going to make plays. Wherever my assignment is, I’m going to try to execute it to the best of my ability.
You and Marcus Dowtin attended Fork Union Military Academy together during high school. Did you guys ever talk back then or think you’d be in the NFL?
For the most part, no. I always knew Marcus and I knew he was a good guy and a good player. But we were at two different levels. I was at the PG [post-graduate] and he was in the high school. So we didn’t really get to talk a lot, but I always knew he was a good player and he could put up some good numbers.
Don’t you think that’s kind of crazy, though? Not too many high school players make it to the NFL, and the ones that do, hardly any reconnect with a high school teammate on the same pro team.
It’s really crazy, you know. But it’s the grind. Two guys came out of the same high school together and basically grinded their way to make it up to the NFL, and we’re both on the same team. So hopefully we can make some good things happen.
What are some of your hobbies away from football?
For the most part I just sit at home with my girlfriend and babysit my little girl.
How old is your little girl?
She’s 3 months old and beautiful as ever.
Has that been good, being in the Northeast and having this time with your daughter?
Just having the opportunity to provide for her and do everything I need to as a father. She’s a couple hours down the road, so I see her every time I get a chance to. Me and the mom, we go out and it’s going to be my future wife. She’s the one for me.
You hit the road to face New England Sunday. How tough is that environment going to be?
It’s going to be tough. We have to be prepared. They’re going to get up to the ball and start moving it fast, no huddle. We just have to keep our composure, get lined up and just play football.
Did you face any no-huddle offenses at South Carolina?
Yeah. Auburn when they had Cam Newton. They used to kill it all the time.
What’s it going to take most to pull off this win Sunday? Is there one thing?
Sure. We have to pressure the quarterback, keep him mobile, get our hands on the receivers, reroute them, play physical and just be the aggressor and beat them.
Do you feel you’re more confident now that your first NFL game is under your belt?
I’m confident but I’m still a little like I don’t know what’s going to happen. There are still things that run in the back of my mind at the same time. But for the most part, I try to stay up and just go out and play, thinking I’m the best athlete on the field and make plays.