Zaviar Gooden Interview
Sr / Missouri / LB
Updated - 2-16-13
By: Alex Khvatov
Alex Khvatov: What are your measurements (height, weight and forty time)?
Zaviar Gooden: At the Senior Bowl, they measured me under 6’2. I am 235 pounds right now and I am looking to run a 4.3.
Alex Khvatov: What schools recruited you when you were coming out of high school?
Zaviar Gooden: I wasn’t a huge recruit. I was a three star recruit. Missouri, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Stanford and Texas Tech expressed interest.
Alex Khvatov: Why did you eventually choose Missouri?
Zaviar Gooden: I went down there for a visit. I felt like they were honest with me. I was the most comfortable there. I just saw a program that was on the rise. I wanted to be a part of it. I felt like I could contribute and have a good career.
Alex Khvatov: Describe your career at Missouri to us.
Zaviar Gooden: I felt like it went good. I had a great time at Missouri. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. My sophomore year was really good individually and as a team. My junior year wasn’t as good as the sophomore year. As a team, we went 8-5 as opposed to 10-3 during my sophomore year. My stats were pretty similar. I had two pretty good years. This past year, I battled injuries and missed a couple of games. It was the first time out of my five years that we didn’t make a bowl. As a team, it was probably the worst year record ways. I met a lot of great people. A lot of great players came through there. I think that I had a great career overall.
Alex Khvatov: How difficult was it to make the transition from the Big 12 to the SEC this past year?
Zaviar Gooden: I felt like the games that we lost weren’t because the other teams were so great. It was because of us. I felt like the Big 12 had great competition as well. I am not taking anything away from the SEC. They do have really good teams. I feel like the strength of the SEC is the defense. The strength is up front in particular, and the physicality of it. But offensively, I played against three first round QB’s in the Big 12 last year. A lot of receivers in the Big 12 went in the first round. I feel like offensive skilled positions were better in the Big 12. But defensive lines and the linebackers is what separates the SEC from the rest of the conferences. They have freaks on the D-line that dominate up front and can change the game. But I felt like we lost the games more because of us. We played Florida in the swamp and lost 14-7. We played Georgia really close and almost won that game. It wasn’t like we were outmatched. Texas A&M came in to the SEC as well and they had their best year. We just had a down year.
Alex Khvatov: What can we expect from Missouri next year?
Zaviar Gooden: I expect progress and improvement. Obviously, they are more familiar with the teams now. They are used to the stadiums. The environments in the SEC are a lot crazier. Playing at Alabama is a lot different than playing at Iowa State. I think that they will do well. They have some good players. We have James Franklin, Andrew Wilson and Kony Ealy coming back. I think that they will be solid. The offensive line is coming back.
Alex Khvatov: Tell us about your experience at the Senior Bowl.
Zaviar Gooden: It was fun. I had a great time. You are down there competing against some of the best college football players. You see these guys on TV and they get hyped up. It was fun to see how I stacked up against them. It was fun getting to know them and share with them our college experience. I had a good time getting coached by NFL coaches. I was learning their plays. It was good to compete and show what I had to offer to the NFL.
Alex Khvatov: How would you rate your performance during the Senior Bowl week?
Zaviar Gooden: I felt like I had a solid performance. I did really well. I answered a lot of questions that people had about me. I won the most outstanding LB award down there for a week. I proved myself a lot down there.
Alex Khvatov: What was the feedback that you received from scouts and coaches?
Zaviar Gooden: I met with pretty much every single team. They all seemed pretty interested. Not to say that they were drooling over me. They seemed pretty interested in what I had to offer. I received good feedback about the way that I performed. I answered the questions that they had about me. I had a solid performance, and they like the way that I run. They said that I stood out.
Alex Khvatov: What surprised you the most about the Senior Bowl?
Zaviar Gooden: I didn’t know that we were going to be that busy out there. We were always doing something. We didn’t have much free time. I didn’t quite expect that. Also I saw the competitive nature of the coaches. I thought that it was an All-Star Game, so they would just coach you up as we go. But the teams took the game very seriously. The coaches really wanted to win. They weren’t playing around. They coach you for real. I didn’t know that the competitive nature would be that intense. But I guess that it is the NFL, so I should have expected it.
Alex Khvatov: You are about a week away from the Scouting Combine, what can we expect from you there?
Zaviar Gooden: I am looking forward to it. It is just another opportunity to show what I got. I want to showcase what I have to offer their team. I plan on doing every single drill. I am not afraid to compete. I am a competitor and I will do every single drill. I will just enjoy the experience. I will try to make me some money.
Alex Khvatov: You are a speedy linebacker, but how realistic is it for you to run a 4.3 at the Combine?
Zaviar Gooden: I think that it is realistic to me. I believe in it. I am confident. I will just run my race. Some guys freeze up under pressure. I am just looking forward to the opportunity of going up there. A lot of guys question it, but I am just going to try to prove it. I really don’t like to talk about it. It is put up or shut up time. I am just going to try to show it instead of talking about it.
Alex Khvatov: What are your strengths on the football field?
Zaviar Gooden: I feel like I do a lot of things well. I feel like my pure athleticism helps me make plays. Speed, quickness and footwork are some of my best traits. I feel like I am a DB that is physical enough to play LB. I feel like I am an every-down guy. You won’t have to substitute me in nickel or dime packages. I can line up and cover tight ends, receivers and backs. I feel like I have the speed to rush the edge. In college, they didn’t ask me to do that much in terms of blitzing. We ran a true 4-3. I can get on the edge and rush the passer in a 3-4 defense. I have a lot to offer.
Alex Khvatov: What areas of your game do you need to improve upon?
Zaviar Gooden: I just need to improve on my technique. It is nothing that can’t be done. It is a couple of fundamental things. It will take a little bit of work because in the NFL, every false step or every misplaced hand is going to cost you. The guy across from you was an All-American in college too. I just need to master my fundamentals and really get that down. It is just real technique type of stuff.
Alex Khvatov: Where are you training right now for the NFL Draft?
Zaviar Gooden: I am training at Competitive Edge Sports down in Atlanta. Actually, Colin Kaepernick is down here. He just got down here a couple of days ago. My trainer is Chip Smith. I think that he is the best in the business. He has trained Pro Bowlers and first round talent. He is getting me right. I have been working with a linebackers’ coach. Randall Godfrey played LB for the Cowboys and the Titans in the NFL. He has been working with me. I also do speed and agility stuff.
Alex Khvatov: What is the highlight of your football career up to this point?
Zaviar Gooden: When we beat Oklahoma my sophomore year. They were ranked number one at that time. We were also undefeated at that time. We hadn’t beaten Oklahoma in a long time. We beat them. College Gameday was there. The fans stormed the field. They were wild and crazy. That was the best game which I have been a part of.
Alex Khvatov: What separates you from all of the other players at your position?
Zaviar Gooden: It is very rare to find a LB that can run like I can. I can be on the field every down. I can cover. A lot of guys are great at run support, but they are not good at pass coverage. I feel like I can do both well. I am not afraid to take on a fullback or an offensive lineman. I feel like I have a lot of great attributes. I am a smart guy and I am a leader on the field.
Alex Khvatov: Who is your favorite NFL player?
Zaviar Gooden: My favorite player is actually Adrian Peterson. I have been following him since I have been younger. He came out of high school and then went to Oklahoma. I used to play RB in high school. I wanted to run the ball like Adrian Peterson. He is a great player. I am really happy for him when he came back from ACL. Since he is on the Vikings, I like watching them. I root for them. But really, I am just a big fan of Adrian Peterson.
Alex Khvatov: Did you learn anything valuable from your former teammate LB Sean Weatherspoon?
Zaviar Gooden: I just moved from running back to linebacker. It takes some guys one or two years to learn the new position. I had to learn it in a couple of weeks. He helped me out a lot on that. He helped me learn the playbook a lot better. He taught me not think as much on the field. I just saw how he did things. He was such a good role model. I just naturally followed in his footsteps. I tried to do the same things when I became older.
Alex Khvatov: What did you enjoy the most about playing college football?
Zaviar Gooden: My teammates. I met a lot of great guys. I plan to stay in contact with them for the rest of my life. There a lot of great friends that I cherish deeply. I have built a lot of relationships with my teammates, with the coaches and the academic people. They all helped me out so much. They helped me graduate and got me bigger, stronger and faster. They help you deal with life in general. Missouri has a first class program. I will always be a Tiger.
Alex Khvatov: What does it take to be a leader?
Zaviar Gooden: I think in order to lead, you have to do things right yourself. You can’t preach something that you are not doing yourself. Being a good player helps, but you have to show passion. You have to show that you actually care about each person on the team. I felt like I treated everyone the same. It doesn’t matter if you were the star on the team or third on the depth chart. I wanted to be able to help them not only with football, but with personal stuff in their life. If you can connect with them on a personal level, then you can motivate the team when you get on the field. I think that you have to have that connection in order to be a leader. You can’t be a selfish. You have to put the team first if you want to achieve a common goal.
Alex Khvatov: Describe your teammate DT Sheldon Richardson.
Zaviar Gooden: I think that Sheldon is a really misunderstood guy. A lot of people try to make him out to be this bad guy. They think that he is selfish and only he cares about is himself. But he is not like that at all. I think that Sheldon actually cares so much about the team and he has gotten in trouble for it. He wanted to win so badly that it frustrated him when we didn’t win. He acted out his emotions and said some things before he thought about it. He wasn’t a bad guy. Some people like that. Sometimes you have to call people out when they are not doing their job. He was just trying to be a leader and wanted people to step up. He played hard all year. He had a great season. He is a great player. I think that he will do great things in the NFL. He is just misunderstood. He was trying to motivate guys and wanted guys to step up their game. He just wanted to win so badly.
Alex Khvatov: Who will emerge as the next great star at Missouri?
Zaviar Gooden: Jimmie Hunt (WR) is the next guy that everyone will be talking about. He is an explosive player. Every time he touched the ball, he scored a TD. Jimmie was an All-State track runner in the state of Illinois. He is super fast. He has good feet and he can cut on a dime. He can make you miss in open space. He is a good receiver. He can develop into that big time talent. He should be that next big time talent. He is a hard worker too. He showed you flashes of things to come this year.
Alex Khvatov: What are your hobbies?
Zaviar Gooden: I am a relaxed guy. Off-the-field, I like to hang out with my friends. I like to shoot some pool or play dominoes at home. I don’t do anything too extravagant.
Alex Khvatov: At this point, is the NFL a dream or a reality?
Zaviar Gooden: I think that it is in the in-between faze. I am pretty sure that it will be a reality. But I am not ready to call it a reality until my name gets called on draft day. When you dream about something, it kind of seems that it is so far away from the present. But this will be happening in the next couple of months.
Alex Khvatov: What do you plan to do with your life after your football career is over?
Zaviar Gooden: I love the game. I want to stay around it. I want to train athletes. I want to work with high school athletes. Maybe even train guys that are preparing for the Combine as well. I really want to help high school guys. There are a lot of high school guys that have potential to go to college. But they threw their life away because they got hung up on the streets. It is important to not only teach them about football, but become a positive role model in their life. To motivate them to get that good SAT score, get into college and cut out those foolish things.
Alex Khvatov: Finish the sentence, Zaviar Gooden is….
Zaviar Gooden: I feel like I am two different people. On the field, I am enthusiastic and passionate. I am intense and I bring energy. I am a leader. Off-the-field, I am relaxed. A lot of people laugh at me because I walk very slowly. But on the field, I run super fast. I am two totally different ends of the spectrum. I kind of have a split personality.
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