Following is a question-and-answer session between Mel Kiper Jr. and Ole Miss running back Deuce McAllister. McAllister has been the top-rated senior prospect on Mel's Big Board all year.
Mel Kiper Jr.: What can you bring to an NFL team?
Deuce McAllister: I'm a football player who wants to win and also be viewed as a leader. I bring a lot of versatility. I want my teammates to always know that they can count on me to make plays.
Kiper: When did you realize you could become a top-flight running back at Ole Miss?
McAllister: I don't look it that way. I'm just doing my job. I'm thankful to my teammates for making my success at Ole Miss possible. The greatness part I won't look at until my playing days are over and I'm watching a tape of one of my games.
Kiper: What is your greatest asset?
|Deuce McAllister admired the 49er teams of Joe Montana and Jerry Rice.|
McAllister: I think it's my surprising speed for my size. I also take great pride in my ability to excel as a pass receiver. Also my versatility. I can line up at wide receiver, then on the next play run inside from the tailback position.
Kiper: What is your biggest weakness or area you need to improve on?
McAllister: I've been working on my endurance and conditioning. We have a new strength program at Ole Miss. And at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, I've been working on injury prevention.
Kiper: This year, you were hampered by shoulder and ankle injuries. Of late, some have questioned your toughness. How do you respond to that criticism, which in my opinion is both unfair and inaccurate?
McAllister: People are entitled to their opinions, but I missed only one game with the high ankle sprain and played in every other game. Whether it was the shoulder or ankle, my approach was that I was going to play regardless. It didn't matter if I was just 70 percent, I was going to be on the field. It was in the third game against Vanderbilt that I suffered the shoulder injury. Then on the eighth play against Alabama, which was our sixth game of the season, I suffered a high ankle sprain. After the third game, I was never at full strength, although the best I felt was against Mississippi State in our final regular-season game.
Kiper: You opted not to take part in Senior Bowl practices or the game. What was your reasoning?
McAllister: My primary concern was getting back to full strength and being completely healthy for the combine workout. The shoulder injury needed six weeks to heal properly, so had I participated in the practices and the game, I would not have been at my best for the combine workout.
Kiper: Will you participate in the combine workout?
McAllister: I may not run the 40, but I feel comfortable going through the running-back drills and catching the football.
Kiper: Who is your favorite NFL player?
McAllister: Edgerrin James because of what he means to his team. He's a competitor who is not concerned with anything but winning.
Kiper: Are there any running backs in the NFL you have patterned your style after?
McAllister: I've tried to take a little from a number of backs. I really admired Walter Payton, with his relentless, physical style. Also the way Marshall Faulk catches the football. With Eddie George and Edgerrin James, what strikes me is their passion for the game and the way they compete on every play.
Kiper: What is your favorite NFL team?
McAllister: It has always been the San Francisco 49ers. I knew all the players. And Jerry Rice, being from Mississippi, has always been a player I have watched and admired. Those Montana-to-Rice and Young-to-Rice completions were unforgettable.
Kiper: In five years, where do you hope to be as far as your football aspirations are concerned?
||People are entitled to their opinions, but I missed only one game with the high ankle sprain and played in every other game. Whether it was the shoulder or ankle ... I was going to play. ”
||— Deuce McAllister
McAllister: I hope to be having a successful career in the NFL. Hopefully, we would have won a Super Bowl and I would have made it to a few Pro Bowls.
Kiper: Biggest influence in helping you get where you are today?
McAllister: My mother and father. There were also so many coaches and teachers that have helped me along the way. There are really too many people to name.
Kiper: Tell me about your high school days on the athletic fields.
McAllister: I also played basketball and ran track. I really have a great love for the game of basketball. I was a two-guard who could have done some things if I was two or three inches taller. In football, I played wide receiver as a sophomore and some as a junior, before being strictly a tailback my senior year.
Kiper: Do you prefer playing running back or wide receiver?
McAllister: I definitely prefer being a tailback. I love the touches. You get more opportunities at tailback. At wide receiver, you just don't get the ball in your hands enough.
Kiper: Before signing on with Ole Miss, what other schools did you consider?
McAllister: Miami (Fla.), Mississippi State, Notre Dame, Tennessee and Alabama.
Kiper: Is there a particular team in the NFL you would like to play for?
McAllister: It will be a privilege and an honor to play in the NFL for any team. If I had a preference, though, it would be to go to a team that already has an established quarterback. That way, all the pressure isn't on me.
Kiper: What is your accurate height, weight, 40 time and other measureables?
McAllister: I'm 6-foot-1 and 220 pounds. I haven't run a 40 of late, but my times should be in the 4.31 to 4.37 range. My vertical jump is 36 inches. As far as bench-press reps at 225 are concerned, I'm at 18 reps right now and should be at 22 now that my shoulder is strong. My maximum bench press is 405 pounds.
Kiper: Tell me about your approach to the game of football.
McAllister: First of all, I'm thankful to able to play the game and am blessed to be in this position. I also consider myself to be a different guy with the pads on. I'm more emotional on the football field. I have a passion to play the game, although football won't define me as a person.
Kiper: When all is said and done, how do you want people to remember Deuce McAllister?
McAllister: As someone who had a burning desire to win. I also know that when the time comes it will be hard to walk away from this game.
WORD ASSOCIATION with Deuce McAllister:
Football: "A physical game. It's competition at its best."
Mississippi: "On the rise to greatness. "
Family: "A tight-knit group. They have been behind me in what has been a very difficult year. My family is always there for me, and I hope that I can always be there for them."
Life: "In life you learn that you should take nothing for granted. People talk about greatness and success, but I feel the most important thing is the journey and what it takes to get there."
Winning: "I have a passion for winning. The bigger the prize, the more enjoyable it is. I feel especially good for the fans and what winning represents."
Losing: "I hate it. Losing sticks with me. I thrive on competition and hate to be associated with losing, whether it's checkers, video games or on the football field."
NFL: "The best talent."
Deuce McAllister: "A person who cares about other people. On the football field, I've never been impressed with numbers. I'd rather see the smiles on the faces of my teammates when we come away with a hard-fought victory. I'm not looking to bask in the glory."
Toughest player faced: "Leonard Little of Tennessee and Takeo Spikes of Auburn. Both were physical and fast. Everywhere I stepped, they were there. Both Little and Spikes elevated the play of everybody on defense."
Best memory: "Our last regular-season game this year against Mississippi State. Especially what it meant to the seniors."
Worst memory: "Our bowl game against West Virginia left a sour taste in my mouth. We weren't focused and ready to play in the first half."