I recently interviewed Kyle Emanuel, linebacker of the Los Angeles Chargers at NFL UK’s Summer Bowl event in London.
Emanuel entered the league in 2015 out of North Dakota State, and has been a Charger for his entire NFL career.
I want to start by asking you about your time in college at North Dakota State, one of the most instantly recognisable FCS programmes in the country. What was it like to be a part of that team?
It was unbelievable. I came to North Dakota State and they were 3-8 the year before but you just kind of sensed that there was something different about the programme, and you learn that really quickly. We just did things differently there, from our preparation to how we played. I got to play with some incredible people, some unbelievable coaches, and to win four national championships was pretty amazing and I was just happy to be a part of it.
Moving to your NFL career now Kyle, few could have started quite like yours. With a sack and an interception in Week One of your rookie season, how fondly do you remember that day?
It was a day I’ll never forget. We had a guy go down about a week before and I was told I was going to start, and just being able to start your first NFL game is pretty cool, and to have a sack and interception [laughs]… it’s hard to beat that, right? It set the bar pretty high so it was a memorable day and something I’ll never forget.
Your Chargers’ defense is pretty special, and one of the more complete units in the NFL. How effective do you think that front seven will be in deciding some wins for the team this year?
Yeah I think that’s gonna be big for us, our secondary did an unbelievable job last year and the front seven did good as well, but we have to improve in the run-game. If we can improve in the run-game, stop teams from running the ball, we’ve already proved that we can stop the pass. That’s gonna be a goal for us, and we have a lot of talent, but we have to stop the run and make teams throw on us.
To that end, you drafted defensive back Derwin James in the first round of the draft this year. He’s coming into the league highly rated and famed for his high work ethic. Have you got to experience his drive yet?
Yeah, I mean you just see how versatile he is, and I think that’s really what the Chargers liked about him. I think you could line him up at corner, you could line him up at nickel, free safety, strong safety, he can do a lot of things. It’s just a matter of getting him comfortable with our defensive scheme and letting him go out there and play fast. He’s an exciting guy and I’m looking forward to big things from him this year and moving forward.
One last question – is there one guy in your career you’ve dreaded tackling?
[laughs]… I don’t know if I dread tackling anyone, but Marshawn Lynch… he lived up to the hype. He was someone I’d heard about even going through high school and college, he’s been doing it for a long time, and for him to come back with the Raiders last year, he definitely lived up to the hype. He’s quick, he’s fast, he’s strong, and his balance is unbelievable. He’s always a tough one to bring down.