Former WVU players chat with Chuck Finder
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Returning to campus in the past few days to resume workouts for the NFL Draft and prepare for Thursday's Pro Day inside the Caperton Indoor Practice Facility, three former West Virginia Mountaineers -- receiver Darius Reynaud, cornerback Vaughn Rivers and tailback Steve Slaton -- sat down with the Post-Gazette and tackled a wide array of topics.
FINDER: What's the most important thing you want to accomplish at Pro Day?
REYNAUD: Re-run my 40 over. I ran 4.47 and 4.54 at the Combine.
FINDER: You can run faster?
REYNAUD: (smiling) Hell, yeah.
SLATON: I want to re-run my 40, too. I'm not satisfied with it. I ran 4.4.
FINDER:What about these reports of a 4.51?
SLATON: I never ran one of those in my life. A month ago in Arizona, I had a 4.27. Hand-held [time] there, though. But that's what [NFL] coaches go by.
REYNAUD: I ran a 4.35 and 4.36 in Arizona.
FINDER: After Pro Day, the next step -- maybe even a bigger step -- are the private workouts for teams, right?
SLATON: The Pro Days [at the major colleges] are all different times. So they'll come and have a private workout with you. The Jets, New England and Atlanta already have scheduled private workouts.
REYNAUD: Kansas City is coming for me. Then I go up there [for an interview in mid-April].
SLATON: At the private workouts, they might give you a physical, might have you do some drills. Mostly [chalk-]board work, though: reading fronts, defenses ...The biggest thing for me is pass protection. That's all the questions I got at the Combine.
REYNAUD: Board work for me, too. And the type of questions about what routes we run, 'Can you run routes?' So I've got to show them I can do that.
FINDER: How about the Wonderlic or any psychological tests you took at the Combine? How many of those were there?
Bothe Slaton and Reynaud answered four.
REYNAUD: I didn't think we'd take any of those. It got tiring. Common sense stuff.
SLATON: 'Are you a dog or are you a cat?' (chuckling) Pittsburgh had the easiest test. It was a bunch of words, and you had to circle the words and write a paragraph to describe yourself. The biggest thing is to be yourself. You don't want to be fake.
FINDER: Who all went to Michigan to work with former West Virginia strength and conditioning coach Mike Barwis?
RIVERS: Antonio [Lewis] and I went up there for about a month. Last week, Owen [Schmitt] and Ryan Mundy got there. They got a nice setup. Spent a lot of money.
SLATON: I'm going up there. I don't know when. See what my schedule is, who else calls.
FINDER: Did the coaches up at Michigan talk to you guys about what was happening back at West Virginia, with all the fan reaction?
RIVERS: They really don't care. They're up there. [After selling their Morgantown houses and moving their families], they're not trying to get their [butts] shot at here in West Virginia.
FINDER: Do you players hear much fallout from fans about that stuff?
RIVERS: A little bit. They're finally starting to get over that.
REYNAUD: I think it's died down a little bit. They're finding out there's nothing they can do about it. Just give old Stew a chance (meaning new coach Bill Stewart).
FINDER: Did any fans give you guys grief, questioning your loyalty about skipping your senior seasons?
REYNAUD: They probably did, but they didn't say it to me.
SLATON: I got a couple of messages. On MySpace. A couple of good messages, a couple of bad messages. Some people are selfish.
FINDER: Were you surprised by the fans' reaction over Coach [Rich] Rodriguez leaving and the buyout, lawsuit and everything?
REYNAUD: It did surprise me a little bit, but it's a business, man.
SLATON: You figured it would happen. But I think they should be happy for him. He's from West Virginia and he can make his mark at Michigan better and maybe one day be in the coaching Hall of Fame. I'm happy for him 'cause he gave me a chance to play running back when a lot of teams wouldn't have given me the chance.
REYNAUD: Did I have any anger about Coach Rod [leaving]? I never did. [The fans] took it the worst. After that victory in the bowl game, who cares?
FINDER: If you can change anything over the past three and a half months, what would it be? The outcome of the Pitt game? Coach Rod leaving?.Something else? . . .
REYNAUD: If Coach Rod had left for Michigan before that game, it still would be that game [they'd want to change].
RIVERS: I was right behind him coming into the locker room after that game. It was horrible ..., especially when he turned this thing around. '[Screw] you, Rodriguez.' 'Thanks a lot, Rod.'
REYNAUD: (chuckling) Yeah, I heard that: 'Thanks a lot, Rod.' ":
SLATON: Look what he brought to the program, too.
REYNAUD: Hell, yeah, that's the one thing I'd change. Like Coach Rod said, 'You won't forget games like that.' A game like that, to go to the national championship game? The Backyard Brawl?
RIVERS: I don't even think about South Florida. But Pitt ...Losing at home? To Pitt? A below-average team? There's only so many things you can tell people in 10 years [when they ask about it]. At Michigan, everybody asked the same thing. They didn't care about the Fiesta Bowl. They asked, 'How'd you lose to Pitt?'
FINDER: How did you lose?
REYNAUD: That's what I thought: 'Man, we got this. It's a done deal.' How about all those people who lost money on tickets and stuff? No wonder they're still mad. (laughing)
RIVERS: We came out slow as [crap]. It got to us.
REYNAUD: They had a game plan for us. They had nothing to lose. Going for it on fourth down. Doing crazy stuff. They did a hell of a job open-field tackling.
SLATON: Plus, they were fighting for it.
RIVERS: They were ready for us, and we weren't.
REYNAUD: To this day, it still hurts. It's still with me. I got back to Louisiana, and my dad was watching the tape ...after the Fiesta Bowl.
SLATON: I still haven't watched it. I won't watch it. I refuse.
FINDER: How were the practices for the Fiesta Bowl, with Rodriguez gone and everything going on?
REYNAUD: It was easy. I think those were the best practices we had since I've been here.
What was everybody's motivation? Was it the Pitt loss Dec. 1? Was it playing in the Fiesta Bowl? Did you want to show people that Rodriguez leaving wasn't the end of the world for West Virginia? ...
SLATON: It's a bowl game. (shrugging)
REYNAUD: Plus, we were playing Oklahoma. Big question mark about that. You heard about 84 percent [of ESPN.com voters picking Oklahoma to win].
RIVERS: That was enough.
REYNAUD: Stew said, 'I picked us a good fight.'
RIVERS: 'You got to bail me out now.'
FINDER: How do you guys think Coach Stew will do?
REYNAUD: Oh, yeah, Stew will do a good job. A lot of coaches who talk to you, they don't look in your eyes. Coach Stew looks you in your eyes. He tells you the truth.
SLATON: Stew's one of the most honest men I ever met. A lot of coaches I met [since] have spoken highly of him.
FINDER: Did him becoming the new coach affect your decision at all whether to declare for the NFL draft, make it any harder on you? Or was there too much uncertainty about his new staff and your roles under them? Because Steve in January said one of the keys to his decision was offensive coordinator Calvin Magee not coming back ...
REYNAUD: It was my time to go.
SLATON: The biggest thing for me, it's always been my dream since I started playing football to be in the NFL. The staff, and especially Calvin, I'd been with so long. Somebody else coming in and trying to teach me and get a feel for me in only a year ...
FINDER: Vaughn, who's your agent?
RIVERS: Tom Hunter of Hampton, Va.
FINDER: Steve and Darius, you're with Eric Metz's firm. Mike Brown works for that same firm and represents Rodriguez and Calvin Magee, as West Virginia fans know all too well. Do you guys catch any flak about going with the same agents as them? And how did you come to choose that firm?
SLATON: LMM has been at it a long time. There are three of them [who represent players]: There's an endorsement guy [Vance Malinovic}, the president [Metz, a Monroeville native], and the smart guy [Ethan Lock, a former Arizona State professor who oversees contracts] ... What people fail to think about Mike, he's just doing his job. People think Mike made him go to Michigan. That's not what happened. In the end, Coach Rodriguez had to make a decision to leave. Coach Rod's a grown man ...
REYNAUD: Agents work for you. He got Coach Rod more money than he got here. That's why coaches get agents, to do stuff like that.
FINDER: But Rodriguez said it wasn't about the money - that he asked for things for the program and was turned down.
RIVERS: That's what he said to us, it was them trying to destroy what he was building with the program. This was his dream job. Michigan wasn't his dream job. That front office ...
SLATON: Look what Coach Rod did for West Virginia. Everybody forgets about that. After the Sugar Bowl [in 2006], they got spoiled.
RIVERS: I just hope they don't go back to accepting eight-win seasons. The bar has been set. I don't think it'll be as easy to do, the structure's not there anymore.
FINDER: Why do you say that? The new staff? The administrators not giving the program some of the changes Rodriguez wanted? [Though assistants salaries already have been increased above the level Rodriguez sought.]
SLATON: A lot of guys have been around Coach Rod and staff so long. They're around a new staff now, and they all don't know each other.
RIVERS: It took time to build once Coach Rod took over. It'll be an interesting first year for Michigan and here.
First Published March 13, 2008 12:00 am