Skins Quotes 5/14/20: C Keith Ismael, T Saahdiq Charles

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Apr 11, 2009
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Greensboro, NC

Marine Corps Virginia

May 14, 2020

C Keith Ismael

On what the last few weeks have been like:
“It’s been exciting, but it’s been a lot though. Just around this time, regularly, without everything going on in the world, I would be there. I would be already getting the work in. It’s kind of just been a bounce around. I’m currently on my way to Texas to go train before waiting to get my report day. The virtual meetings have been going good. A couple technical difficulties here and there, but that’s expected. Nothing is going to flow flawlessly, but overall, they’ve been really good. We’ve been getting in the ‘meeting room’ with the vets this week. As a group, we’re starting to come together. [Offensive Line Coach] Coach Matsko and [Assistant Offensive Line Coach] Coach Wharton have been really good on getting me and [T] Saahdiq [Charles] up-to-speed. Just trying to learn the playbook and trying to get as much knowledge as possible so that I’m ready to compete come August and make my impact. Everything has been good. It’s been a blessing. I’m super excited for this opportunity, and I couldn’t imagine it any other way because it’s the only way that it’s supposed to be. God has put me here. I just thank him every single day for this opportunity.”

On what he’s been able to do to help acclimate to the NFL and his position:

“Besides the daily position meetings, I have my playbook and am just continuing to study. Just being a student of the game like I have been. Just continuing to level up my knowledge. I’ve already learned so much with this advanced system. We have a lot of really cool concepts and schemes going in that get a lot of players the ball and allows the offensive line to be physical on point-of-attack. Today, we had a QB/Center meeting, so it was just the quarterbacks and centers in a meeting. It’s just all about communicating. The playing field is level. It’s a completely new offense for everybody and so we’re all on the same learning curve, and we’re all trying to get used to the new offense. It’s just going to take a team effort, a lot of communication and just everybody on top of their assignments. Everybody has to be on point moving forward.”

On what his role was with protection calls in college:
“Yeah. I called out all the protections just like I will now – slide directions, who’s man, everything, flipping it to. That’s one thing different though, now, I have the ability to flip the protection. I didn’t have that in college, but now I do which is really cool.”

On his versatility as an offensive lineman:
“Like I said before in this draft process, I feel like I’m one of – if not the – most versatile linemen in this draft class. I’ve played all three interior positions. I feel comfortable playing all three interior positions. I know [Head Coach] Coach Rivera and Coach Matsko know that I have the tape to back it up. Wherever I’m needed, I’ll go and play just like I did in college – plug and play guy. They call me the swiss army knife on the line. I was a leader, but I played wherever they needed me week-in and week-out. If you need me at guard, I can switch over and go play guard. If you need me at center and command that middle, I’ll be there. It allowed me to also be very knowledgeable. I knew what every single person was doing, so I was able to get a really good sense and grasp on the offense in college and now especially at this level, I have to. I have to know the ins and outs, every play, every scheme, everything we’re doing.”

On how the meetings are set up with the coaches and T Saahdiq Charles:
“Now, yes. I think the first week, we would switch off. Once day I was with Coach Matsko and the other day I would be with Coach Wharton. We would just switch off every other day. Now, we’re all kind of coming together as a group, so it’s both of us together.”

On Charles:
“We actually trained together pre-Combine in Dallas, so we’ve known each other since January. We became close friends through our training, so we’re excited to get to work together going forward.”

On if there’s anything he wants to add to his game:
“I’ve added some weight ever since the Senior Bowl [and] Combine already. I think the weight that I’m at is really good right now. I think I’m going to be able to move and be stout wherever I’m at. I don’t want to just say in the middle at center. I want to be wherever to contribute. The goal every offseason and every year is to get bigger, faster, stronger. I’m going to just continue to do that. You have to. There’s not ever really just one thing that I super want to focus on. I just want to focus on getting myself better as a whole. Whatever that is, whether it’s my speed or my quickness. I hear the criticisms and I’m very aware of my body and my place, so I know what I need to work on. Overall, just everything. I just want to get more explosive. I want to get more powerful in my lower body, stronger in my upper body, strengthen my core, quicker off the ball. I just want to be a better me.”

On why he decided to go back to Texas:
“No, I’m on the way. I’m in the middle between Arizona and California right now, visiting my grandmother. I’m making some rest stops on the way, see some really close friends, a couple of them that are in the league. Just saying my hellos, nobody is really trying to drive 20 hours straight, but I’m going to Texas to go train with Duke Manyweather, offensive line consultant, coach, trainer, developer, whatever you want to call him. He’s one of the best in the business, and so I train with him. Me and [OT] Saahdiq [Charles] trained with him before the Combine. If you want to be the best you’ve got to train with the best. So, I’m just trying to be a sponge right now, just gain as much knowledge as I can, and take my game to the next level. He offers such position specific work, physically and mentally. He runs his o-line academy, he brings a lot of the vets, guys in, guys that have trained for a while. We just all learn from each other. And so, I just want to get out there, I want to learn from the best, I want to be the best. Indefinitely, yeah. I just want to learn, I guess you could say, just how to be the best pro possible. He’s trained so many guys, so many top tier guys over the past couple of years. And we had such a large draft class. Now, he’s just a walking encyclopedia. So, I just want to, little techniques, whatever I can take and learn and grow with, just to take my game to the next level, I want to try to get that.”

On who he credits for his technique:
“Probably my offensive line coach at San Diego State, Coach Mike Schmidt. He’s always on us, to what we need to do right consistently. I’m naturally a perfectionist at heart, and so when you tell me this is the way that it needs to be done, this is how we get to it. For example line, we run mid-zone, leverage is armpit, we’ll I’m going to take my steps to get to that armpit. I’m going to take that gap, stepping through and I’m going to get there. And I think that shows on tape, I’m usually on my leverages, you know the right leverage every time. That’s how I can make up for any physical, discrepancies. Anything where I’m lacking, where maybe a guy is bigger, stronger, faster than me. My technique and my knowledge of the play and of the block will take me further.”

On what he has learned in dealing with the Coronavirus:
“I think just not taking things for granted. So many things that we used to, used to be normal in our daily lives we take for granted. And not being able to go outside and interact with people and especially this, we can’t even be in the facility and grow with our own team you know, that’s tough. And so, it’s taking a team effort by everybody in the building, everybody in the organization to continue with this offseason program and to build with the coaches, especially with the new staff. I think it’s really just opened my eyes to not taking those things in our everyday life, that, before all this we took for granted. Valuing every day, every second, every moment. Whether that’s with your family, whether that’s working out, whatever it is. Just be thankful, every single day.”

On the familiarity within the 2020 Draft class:
“I think that’s really cool though. I know [RB] Antonio Gibson because he trained with me out there as well, [RB] Patrick Taylor, his teammate, we have the same agent so we all, I mean I met Antonio [Gibson] at the Senior Bowl. I just think it’s only going to make us stronger if anything. I think that’s really cool. I think that it’s only going to benefit the team, we know each other, we’re somewhat close. I think it’s going to build a really good culture in the locker room. We’re all ready to go out there and get to work. It makes it easier when you’ve got your brothers to your left and your right, and you’ve got people depending on you that you care about. So that’s the way it’s all about, just putting it all out there.”

On what drives him:
“I mean besides the dream of playing at this level, I think it just all goes back to really me. The only person that, what I found, is the only person that stands in the way of you getting to your goals is yourself. I’m a super competitive person, that’s how I am. That’s how my family is. We always compete, my cousins, I have little brothers and sisters they’re already starting to compete but we’re always competing. I compete with my dad, you know, whoever it is, whatever we’re doing. I just want to be my best self, day in and day out. I have to wake up every day and beat myself. I have to be better than who I was the day before. That, obviously, for me, that doesn’t just mean football. Right now it does, because this is the path that I’m walking, this is the path that I’ve chosen. And that is to play and be a part of the National Football League, but it applies to all aspects of my life. When I’m done, I’m going to still continue to do that. I’m still going to continue to strive to be my best self, day in and day out. Whether I’m working in real estate, or I’m working at McDonalds. I’m going to be the best damn drive-thru server that you’ll ever have. It just goes down to me beating myself. That’s what drives me. I want to prove to myself that I can do it. I want to make my dreams come true. Right now, for as long as I can remember I wanted to be a player in the National Football League, and I want to be the best at my position that ever was, and that’s what drives me.”

T Saahdiq Charles

On reuniting with TE Thaddeus Moss:
“It’s actually crazy too. Me and Thaddeus are like, really good friends, best friends. We talk every day. I say, maybe back around February, it was kind of like, me and him were talking. It was like the crazy thing is we’ve got so many guys coming out, somebody will probably end up on the same team. The crazy thing is, my exact words were like, ‘yeah, it would be crazy if we went to the same team but it’s probably not going to happen.’ Now, it ended up happening and that’s my best friend. We eat together, we play right next to each other, we play video games together. So it’s really exciting. He’s the best video gamer you’ll ever meet.”

On how he is working to stay in shape for the NFL:
“I’ve been staying in shape as far as just, running miles, going to the levy and running levy out here in Baton Rouge. Just running balls on the field, something my strength coach taught us for conditioning back at LSU. I do push-ups at home; I do abs at home. That’s as much as I’ve been able to do, but I’m going to try to hit the road, go train, work with a couple of my offensive line trainers that I’ve been training with pre-draft.

On current offensive linemen he has reached out to:

"Guys have reached out to me and I’ve reached out to guys. Of course, I’ve talked to [T] Morgan [Moses]. I’ve talked to [G] Brandon [Scherff], I’ve been in meetings with him as well. I’ve talked to Trai, he actually went to LSU, Trai Turner. He called me, he played for [Offensive Line Coach] Coach Matsko and [Head Coach] Coach Rivera in Carolina [Panthers]. I’ve talked to those guys about it. At the same time, I’ve talked to guys that’ve played in the league for a long time, guys that’ve played 20 years, [Former OT] Jackie Slater. I think I’ve got a good idea about what to expect, but at the same time I don’t know what to expect because it’s my first rodeo.”

On his conversations with the Redskins:

“I felt like there’s nothing I can do to necessarily convince them because you can only move forward. I mean, I did fix my rights. I was suspended for an impulsive decision. I made a mistake. The problems that I had in college, aren’t a problem anymore. Me and [LSU Head Coach] Coach [Ed Orgeron] have a great relationship. I love him, he always tells me, ‘I love you like one of my sons.’ I love him too. Me and him grow close and over the season, he helped me mature as a man. Actually, over all three years in school. When Coach O met me, I was 16 now I’m 20. He knows a lot about me. He knows exactly who I am. I talked to Coach Rivera and the staff at the Combine, I had a meeting with them. I actually talked with [Senior Director of Player Development] Malcolm Blacken, I want to say, a week before the Draft. He was just calling me and telling me, we found out who you are, the guys have done a lot of research about you and they love you. And they’re sending me to you to basically find out, send you a last background check. We talked maybe 30, 45 minutes. I think the conversation went well. Like I said, I never necessarily convinced them, I was just being who I am.”

On if he feels like he has something to prove:
“Of course, I feel like I do have something to prove. Just because, that’s the type of person I am and the type of football player I am. I play with a chip on my shoulder, but at the same time it is a blessing. There’s a lot of guys who also went undrafted. So to say that I went to the fourth round, pick 106, second pick in the fourth round, it’s a blessing. But at the same time, yes sir, yes I am. I play with a chip on my shoulder because of it.”

On what he believes his own strengths are:

“As far as my strengths, I would say I’m a fast switch player. My reactions are very well, I can work through well, I can bend, I can strike, I can open my hips when it comes to unloading out on players. As far as my weaknesses, things that I just want to tune up, I would say it would probably be my hand placement, as far as for the run game and the pass game.”

On where he thinks he will be week 1:

“As far as my mentality going into things, I’m just taking things one foot at a time. Left foot first, right foot second and continuing that way. I’m going to take it day-by-day. As far as starting, I’ve been on the playbook. Me and [C] Keith [Ismael] have been on our own meetings for hours. We’ve been learning the playbook pretty well. Me and him facetime and talk about the playbook when we aren’t with the coaches in a Zoom scenario.”

On his arm length:

“I mean, at the end of the day, I guess people care about the numbers or whatever they say it is that they care about. To me, I’ve played three years and I’ve started three years in the SEC West, which I feel like is the best division of football that you can go play for, for college around the United States. My arms aren’t short, look at a guy like [Rams LB] Terrell Lewis’ arms, I block those guys all the time.”

On his conversation with Senior Director of Player Development Malcolm Blacken:

“Like I said, he just texted me and told me who he was and that we were going to have a meeting. We set up the meeting and me and him talked about it. It was just a talk; it was a pretty important talk. I feel like I would say that he definitely put in a good word for me, he definitely likes me. Me and Blacken are really cool, that’s all I can really say.”

On how he has tried to pick up the playbook early:

“It’s basically all the same thing. Every day it’s just learning the playbook, learning football. When you get to this level, it’s just the stage of football is more details into it. You’ve got to learn more things within the playbook. It’s just taking more time, but I feel like it’s going really well.”

On being a high school soccer goalie:

“I feel like it definitely does. I mean, probably up until late, I’ve probably played soccer longer than I have ever played football. My first time putting on soccer cleats, I was six years old and I never stopped ever since then. I played travel soccer, like select soccer, same thing as AAU basketball. I played that until I was in 9th grade in high school. Into my 9th grade year, my mom was like, I was really good at both but she was like you’ve got to choose one. She’s never been the type to just tell me what to do, I said I want to play football. I stopped playing travel soccer. I played for my high school team as well, but football is what I do.”

On the familiarity with the 2020 Draft class:

“I haven’t thought about that. I feel like it’s just coincidence. Me and Keith [Ismael] trained with each other for the pre-Combine training. Me and Thaddeus [Moss], we just best friends. We came into LSU together, so I feel like it’s coincidence. I don’t know, I don’t think it’s a certain thing.”

On how his struggles at LSU have made him a stronger person:

“I feel like you could say the struggles I went through as far as, maybe start with me and my family being displaced from Hurricane Katrina, you could say how I received a suspension this past year. Each one of those moments, it’s not necessarily a lesson, but it’s something that put something into me that you couldn’t be born with. You understand what I’m saying. I think it’s definitely helped me.”


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Sep 4, 2014
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Centreville, VA

George Mason

Love Ismael's answer to what drives him. Great mindset. That applies to life, not just football.

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