Ted Gilmore recruited Niles Paul to Nebraska and coached him all four seasons. Gilmore, now a receivers coach at USC, is convinced the Redskins have a steal in their fifth-round pick. We'll see; most coaches think that of their former players so take it for what it's worth. But Gilmore does know him well.
Q: What do the Redskins have in Niles?
A: You have a young man that loves the game. I say it that way because I see so many times a lot of young men that play but they don’t love the game. Because he loves the game he will be a true professional. He’s not afraid of competition or to work hard, all those things in my four years of coaching the young man I never once, even as a freshman, had to get on him about working hard and competing. It was the opposite, just trying to get him to wait his turn. He’s very competitive, very confident and with that I think you’ve got some nice qualities. If there is a tougher receiver I want to meet him.
Q: Where did you see that most?
A: He is a tough SOB. He won’t back down from a fight. He won’t back down from competition. He likes doing the dirty work. There aren’t many receivers who like putting their face on a young man and he thrives on that. He looks for an opportunity.
Q: What about his skills?
A: You’re talking about a 225-pound wide receiver. This young man is put together. He has a lot of value. When I first recruited him he was a guy that could have played either side of the ball. We went back and forth on it because of his toughness. Obviously he stayed on offense but he has a lot of value from a special teams standpoint. He gives you instant accountability and mark my words, I don’t care how many vets you have at wide receiver, Niles Paul is not going to take a back seat to anybody. He’ll compete right off the bat.
Q: What about his DUI? Did you guys have to stay on top of him?
A: He’s a kid that was a college student. He’s not trouble. At Nebraska if you sneeze people want to hear you. Unfortunately that’s the responsibility of a student athlete. The rules are different for you. That’s the thing he has to understand. He was being a college student and unfortunately people know who you are and you can’t go about your business as the average Joe. He got national attention, but that young man has no issues. He’s a good kid. To the young man’s credit he never shied away. He knows he made a mistake and openly talked about it.
Q: You felt he turned it around?
A: No question about it. And honestly we didn’t use the kid as well as we could have used him or should have used him. We didn’t give him the ball enough. He was a legitimate first team Big 12 receiver, to get him in the fifth round is in my opinion a steal. An absolute steal because the young man’s abilities are far better. He didn’t have big numbers but we didn’t have a quarterback to get him the ball. His upside is tremendous and from what I recall of Keenan [McCardell] he was a precision route runner and he’ll get Niles to take that next step.
Q: How are his hands? I know he had a couple drops against Texas.
A: There are plenty of other games when he made those plays. That happened to be a big game but nobody could come down harder on him than he did. He came back and continued to perform well for it. He’s very capable and he wants the ball. He wants to be in those situations. He’s not going to just get knocked down, he’ll get back up.
Q: How did you see him respond? Was it immediate in practice?
A: It wasn’t even the next practice. The young man called me that night because he felt he let his team down. It’s very important to him. It’s not like he came back and practiced harder and did anything different because I never had to talk to this young man about practice habits or competing. He competed every day. It wasn’t like all the sudden he was locked in this week and he’ll practice harder. He practiced hard every day. He loves the game and he loves to compete.
Q: What do you like most about his talent?
A: I like his physical nature, in the run game and the pass game. He’s a young man that knows how to use his body and play to his strengths and those are the things I appreciate about him. He realized very early on what was his strength and though he runs well, his strength is learning how to use that big body and play big. He did that right off the bat and tried to impose his will on people.