What’s it like when you’re waiting to hear your name called in the NFL Draft?
It’s a process that includes a lot of sitting around and just about every prospect waiting to see his name flash across the television screen wants to hear his phone ringing sooner than it does. That phone call is the beginning of life as a player in the National Football League.
“I was actually kind of stressed out,” Malik Jefferson said in an exclusive interview with Cincy Jungle. “I was sitting with my agent in the hallway waiting for my name to be called. We were just talking about life and trying to calm each other down. My family was in the other room.”
And then, with the 78th pick in the third round of the 2018 NFL Draft, the Bengals selected Jefferson, a linebacker out of Texas and a former five-star recruit coming out of high school. He ranked 10th among recruits in the country and first at both the outside linebacker position and among those from the state of Texas.
“I was grateful the Bengals gave me an opportunity to be part of the organization,” Jefferson said of finally getting the call. “It was a relief and excitement. I had met with the team at the combine and my pro day but it actually surprised me when I saw the Cincinnati area code.”
After growing up and playing football for all of his life in Texas, Jefferson is now taking his talents north to Cincinnati.
“Now, I’m just ready to get out there, learn the playbook and get to know the new guys so we can come here and make a change,” Jefferson said.
But even though he’s represented Texas teams for his entire football career, Jefferson has played in cold weather before; he’s even played with icicles on his facemask.
“That was just really physical, it was a playoff game when I was in high school,” Jefferson said of the game that produced icicles on his helmet. “The coldest game in college was probably 26 or 27 degrees, at West Virginia. I’ll be ready for it in Cincinnati.”
Jefferson is also ready to embrace not only the city of Cincinnati, but to try Cincinnati chili. He’s never had it but is a big fan of green chili, so he’s excited to give the infamous Cincinnati chili a try.
If you haven’t watched Jefferson play, he’d say he’s explosive.
“Very explosive, very fast,” Jefferson said describing his style on-the-field. “I use my speed to counter a lot of people with movement. I’m very smart at the backer position.”
The 6’3”, 240 pound linebacker put up 160 tackles (26 for loss), 13 sacks, 5 batted passes, 1 fumble recovery (which went for a touchdown) and 2 forced fumbles in three seasons at Texas. At the combine, he ran a 4.52 second 40-yard dash, registered 27 reps on the bench press, had a 36” vertical jump and 125” broad jump. His 40-time ranked third among linebackers at the combine while his bench press tied for second best, his vertical jump was top 10 and broad jump ranked fourth at the position group. He brings the Bengals some much-needed athleticism at the position.
“I want to be that guy,” Jefferson said. “To be the linebacker who takes care of the team and is stout and strong and earns the respect of my teammates and is a contributor.”
So, what are his rookie year goals? They start with getting on-the-field and staying on-the-field.
“I want to make sure I play and keep injury-free,” Jefferson said. “And, I want us to go to the playoffs and you want to win a Super Bowl, of course. Personally, I just want to progress and get better and learn technique and fundamentals.”
Those seem like pretty great goals!