I recently interviewed Neiko Thorpe, cornerback of the Seattle Seahawks at NFL UK’s Summer Bowl event in London.
Thorpe signed with the Kansas City Chiefs as an undrafted free agent in 2012, and his career has seen him play for numerous NFL teams, including a short stint in the Canadian Football League, prior to settling with the Seahawks in 2016.
You’ve shown incredible persistence to get to where you are in your career, what do you think kept you driven during those earlier years in the league?
I just tried to stay hungry, did not take ‘no’ for an answer, and just knowing that if you work hard that work will pay off. That was my thing. I kind of slacked earlier in my career, to where I saw myself falling off and I knew that my work-ethic had fallen off. So I knew from then on I would never do it again.
Has that led you to be thankful for the opportunity to be part of the Seahawks?
I’m so thankful man, I’m blessed to be a part of this. If I wasn’t a part of the Seahawks I wouldn’t be talking to you right now! So it’s a definite blessing.
It might be the oft-forgotten phase of the game, but how important are special teams? And particularly, how important is the punt team?
Very important! When I say field position, when I say away games, when you’re travelling you pack your defense, and you pack your special teams baby! When you playing in a stadium with thousands of other fans, it’s all you’ve got! So really special teams is offense and defense combined. So it’s very important. It’s field position. Just think about that – the punter puts it down inside the 20, the gunner comes down and hits the receiver right there, now the offense has got to drive 80 yards on your defense!
How much do you enjoy that then? Running down the field as a gunner and laying a hit?
MAAAN. WHOOO! I wish he doesn’t call fair catch so I can get a good hit. I enjoy every second.
Moving to the Seahawks now, you’ve lost some key parts of the defense this year in Kam Chancellor and Richard Sherman. Do you think this team has the right scheme and the right personnel to get back to that level?
Absolutely. I do. I feel like these fans just need to see it because Seattle fans were used to those faces. I feel like they should give everybody a chance to make a name for themselves, and stop trying to think we want to do what other people did, because we don’t.
And on that, how important is Earl Thomas to all your defense does?
He is the critical piece! The free safety, the quarterback of the defense. He’s very critical. That’s my brother. I wish him the best. I love Earl, man.
Finally, in all the time you’ve spent in the league and at college at Auburn, was there one receiver you were most worried to be tasked with covering?
I wouldn’t say ‘worried’! I say I respected Julio Jones the most though, without a doubt. We were rivals at college, played against him four years. Coming to the NFL and playing him again. Seeing his game elevate, and the same with mine – I’m not the same player I was in college. I always respect him as a receiver.