Michael Danna interview: Chiefs rookie talks quarantine, Frank Clark and draft day

CHAMPAIGN, IL - OCTOBER 12: Reggie Corbin #2 of the Illinois Fighting Illini runs the ball as Michael Danna #4 of and Cameron McGrone #44 of the Michigan Wolverines pursues at Memorial Stadium on October 12, 2019 in Champaign, Illinois. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
CHAMPAIGN, IL - OCTOBER 12: Reggie Corbin #2 of the Illinois Fighting Illini runs the ball as Michael Danna #4 of and Cameron McGrone #44 of the Michigan Wolverines pursues at Memorial Stadium on October 12, 2019 in Champaign, Illinois. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images) /

Michael Danna is one of six rookies to comprise the Kansas City Chiefs official draft class of 2020. We recently spoke with him to hear more about the draft and his hero, Frank Clark.

The Kansas City Chiefs, along with 31 other NFL franchises, have officially closed the books on the 2020 NFL Draft and the ensuing frenzy to pick up as many quality rookie players as possible. For the Chiefs the total haul included six picks and 18 undrafted free agents.

Among those drafted were Michigan defensive end Michael Danna. Last year, Danna almost came out in the draft after putting up strong numbers at Central Michigan, but he decided to transfer to Michigan to finish his degree and show what he could do in a larger level.

We recently sat down with Michael to hear more about how he’s handling things so far and how ready he is to get a locker next to Frank Clark, a longtime hero for this Detroit native.

How are you holding up in the midst of a quarantine? And where are you?

I’m at home in Detroit. Man, this whole pandemic is out of our control. It’s all in God’s hands. We can’t really let it affect us then. All we can do is control our readiness and that pertains to whether we go in the weight room and we’re working out or what we do in our daily lives. That’s on us. That’s our readiness. All I can tell myself this whole time is to control what I can control and whatever happens happens. If it was in my control, I’d have loved to have a pro day or to be in Kansas City right now training. But I can’t.

When you say you have to focus on what you can control and let the rest go, how hard is that for you?

No, it’s not hard for me because for my whole career, that’s all I’ve been telling myself: control what you can control. I think it’s real big whether it’s football or off the field issues. It’s just responding to adversity.

Listening to [Chiefs area scout] Pat Sperduto’s comments after the Chiefs drafted you, he mentioned that you’d been on their draft board last year because they thought you might come out. How strongly did you really consider that?

That was a big consideration. That was a real idea of mine and it was really based off of the draft grade I was going to get. Whether or not I was going to continue to get my degree that May… there was a bunch of things going on in my head, but that was one of the serious options I had.

What was the tipping point to go back?

I started college and I knew my parents were big about me getting my degree. I didn’t want to not complete college or finish it five years down the road. I also knew that I could have bettered myself in college, too, and having one year extra of college football wasn’t going to hurt anybody. It was only going to better me and I used it to my advantage. I don’t regret it.

Were you aware of the Chiefs interest in you last year?

I had no idea! I really had no idea what teams were interested in me at that time. I was just playing ball.

That’s a big leap to jump to a Big Ten program as the new guy with only a year having to come in and learn new things and meet new faces. Were you nervous? Excited?

I was really excited. I wasn’t nervous. I was excited to get there because growing up in the Detroit area, that’s all you hear is Michigan or Michigan State. I was hyped up to go to Michigan because being in the Big House was a dream come true. Being on the field in the Big Ten or in a Power Five [conference] was something I wanted to prove that I could do and I was so glad to be able to do that. To do it at Michigan was even better.

What’s been the learning curve for you in the last year?

The part of my game that was helped the most was my fundamentals and my technique. You’re always tightening up the screws on your fundamentals and your technique, and I think that was a big part of what I did at my career at Michigan. I think it was really important because it made my skill set better and made me a better player on the field. It also helped me understand the basics more. It made my job a whole lot easier.

We can all view the first few moments when the Chiefs called you, but how has the aftermath been?

It’s still surreal to this moment. It’s unbelievable. It’s a dream come true of mine. To be able to have that kind of accomplishment and feeling is unbelievable. It’s really a blessing to have my name called and have that be my special day. Now it still feels surreal. It’s settling in a little bit, but I still wake up and think, ‘Dang I was drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs.’ It’s a great feeling. It’s amazing.

Who’s the model for your game?

I’d have to say for sure the d-end they have right now, the man Frank Clark. He’s a wonderful player. I’ve been watching him since I was in high school back when he was in Michigan. Being able to be on the same roster and even learn from him and pick his brain, that’s a hell of an opportunity.

How much did you watch the Chiefs last year?

I watched them a lot. They made their run and I don’t know who wasn’t watching. Who would want to miss a game with Patrick Mahomes or Tyrann Mathieu or Frank Clark? They always have a steady program and culture. It’s not something you want to miss.

Pat mentioned your versatility and that Michigan asked you to play inside after you’d played outside on the edge. Have you heard from the Chiefs enough to know what they’ll ask of you?

Really, just playing defensive end, setting the edge, and pass rushing and having the capabilities of dropping back if I have to. That’s a big part of the type of player I am; whatever the coach needs me to do, I’ll do it—whether that’s special teams or any part of the game where the team feels like they can use me to benefit them. That’s what I’m gonna do because that’s what I signed up for.

Did they discuss any potential of playing a SAM role?

I don’t really have an idea for that. That’s up to the coaches and if they ask me to do it, that’s what I’ll do and I’ll be able to handle it mentally and physically. I’ll give it my all.

I love that you say that because it’s clear that’s what the Chiefs loved about you as well. That’s gotta be a point of pride for you.

Yeah, it is. That’s the type of player I am. I’m a team player and the game needs people like that. You can’t go without them. You need the team players, the role players, the guys ready to step up and take on the role. I think that’s a very important aspect of the game.

But if you had your way?

You know, I’ve been rushing the passer all my career playing football. That’s my natural talent. That’s what I’ve been doing, so when I get the chance to rush the passer and get after the quarterback, that’s my calling. That’s my chance.

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