2017 NFL Draft interview: Georgia OT Tyler Catalina
By Matt Conner
The Chiefs are one of several teams showing interest in Georgia OT Tyler Catalina. We recently spoke to Tyler to find out more about his passion for the game.
For three years, Tyler Catalina held down the left side for the University of Rhode Island. For his final season of college football, he knew he wanted to take it to the next level. Fortunately the University of Georgia provided just that opportunity.
Catalina started every game at left tackle last season for the Bulldogs, a tremendous leap from the Colonial Athletic Association, part of FCS football (formerly known as Division I AA) to the SEC. As Catalina himself says, it was a tremendous experience to play across from multiple first-round picks week after week, a transfer student thrown into a new line, a new scheme, a new coaching staff and playbook. It speaks volumes about Catalina’s skill set that he could immediately join the Bulldogs and start at the most important position on the line.
Now he finds himself on the verge of another leap, but Catalina says he’s ready for the opportunity. He’s heading to the Falcons local day soon, and the Chiefs and Steelers and Panthers have also shown plenty of interest. Given the Chiefs interest, we recently sat down with Tyler to hear more about his experience and the toughest players he faced last year as a left tackle in the SEC.
How are you spending your days pre-draft?
Pretty much what I do all day is wake up early, get a good breakfast in, and then I’m in the gym for five or six hours per day. There’s no time to prepare like now. When you get a chance to show a team what you can do, there’s no second opportunity.
Is this an exciting time for you then? Are you nervous?
It’s everything. There’s nerves and excitement and anxiety. [Laughs] I’m trying to focus all of those emotions into one day at a time when I go to the gym and try to get better every single day.
When you’re focused in the gym like that, are you trying to improve something specifically?
I’ve always been a pretty strong kid, but when you get to that level, you can always improve upon your physical strength. A lot of the time, I’m working on positional stuff. You can never be too good with technique. There’s something new you can fix every day, so that’s something I am focusing on and working on is getting into every position along the offensive line. Versatility is the way you stay on a roster and earn playing time.
Do your pro hopes go back to Rhode Island or even earlier?
Yeah, I think every kid’s dream is to play in the NFL or play professional sports of some kind. You never really see it come true until you get to a time like this. Every year that you’ve prepared for your college season, at least in my mind, I always knew that I had the next year. I knew I was going to play the best that I could and then there’d be a next year. Now there is no next year. It’s now or never to give it my all and go to the next level.
Is that surreal to think your college career is now in the rearview mirror?
Absolutely. [Laughs] I was talking to one of my buddies I played with at Rhode Island. I said, “Can you believe we’re done with college? There’s no more school. There’s no more practice. No more 5:00 a.m. workouts. It’s just life.”
By the way, a 5:00 a.m. workout sounds brutal. That has to feel good that that part is over, right?
[Laughs] Yeah, I’d say so. That and finals. Finals week was never any fun for me.