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Draft Diamonds Prospect Interview: Justin Utupo, DL, University of Notre Dame

justinEvery year, NFL Draft Diamonds brings our readers the best in depth interviews on the internet. We specialize in giving players an opportunity to showcase their talents on our website. We conducted interviews last year with over 300 plus players. We want you to enjoy our interviews, because when these young men are in the league, we will not be surprised, and neither should you. 

What is your name?

Justin Utupo

What is your Height/Weight?

6’1, 260

What is your position?

Defensive Line, Linebacker, Special Teams

Where do you play college football?

I played college football at The University of Notre Dame for 5 seasons

How many teams were recruiting you out of high school?

High School Recruiting: 20+ Division 1 scholarship offers (Mostly PAC12)

How did you choose your school?

I chose to attend Notre Dame because it allowed me the opportunity to receive a prestigious degree and play on national television every Saturday. The beautiful campus, the champion culture, and the family atmosphere led me to Notre Dame.

Where are you from?

I am from Long Beach, California

Who is your role model, and why?

My role model is my grandmother, Sina. She puts our family first. She has shown my family and I the importance of hard work and humility. Her love keeps our family strong.

Did you play any other sports growing up?

Growing up I played basketball and rugby.

Did you play any other positions in football?

Throughout my football career I have played Linebacker, Tight End, and Defensive Tackle/End

At your position, what separates you from others?

At the Defensive Line position I am undersized. However, I have found a way to use my size to my advantage against bigger/taller Offensive Linemen. I play with great leverage and I have quick hands. I know how to take on and defeat a double team. When I am singled up against an offensive lineman I am good at working the hard shoulder and staying in my fit. Once I have the Offensive linemen locked out and separated I am good at getting rid of the blocker and then pursuing the ball/making the play. I have great awareness when it comes to diagnosing the opponent’s offense. My awareness comes from my film study, note taking during meetings, and by understanding of down and distance prior to the snap of the ball. Since I have experience at linebacker, when I have to drop into coverage from the defensive line position, I give our defense an advantage because I am comfortable dropping into coverage and I am able to cover receivers/running backs man.

justin uWhen you are breaking down film, what do you look for?

When I am studying film I always look for tendencies. For example, I always check to see what I can get from the O linemen prior to the snap of the ball (whether they are light or heavy in their stances on run or pass) I also study the formations of the offense and what plays they like to run in certain formations. By studying the players and the offensive coordinators tendencies, I am able to do less thinking and just hit, run and have fun.

Who was the toughest player you ever faced?

The toughest player I ever faced was actually one of my own teammates, Zack Martin. He now plays OG for the Dallas Cowboys. When I was on the scout team Zack and I faced off every practice. We both got each other better.

If you could compare your play to one player in the NFL who would it be and why?

Dwight Freeney. He is undersized but he uses his leverage, strength and quickness to his advantage.

What is your biggest strength?

My biggest strength is that I am a team player. I will do whatever it takes to help our team win. I have had to switch from the defensive line to linebacker back to the defensive line in order to meet our defensive needs. I also played 3 years of just special teams before I received a single defensive snap in college. It was hard not playing on defense those first years but I didn’t let that stop me from being the best scout team/special teams player that I could be.

What is your biggest weakness?

One of my weaknesses is my pass rush. I am really good when the defensive line is running a stunt or a game. However, I need to work more on my explosiveness off the ball and my technique. I am confident that I can turn this weakness into one of my strengths.

If I were a GM and gave you a second to sell yourself, what would you say?

GM: I am the right player for this team. I can contribute on both defense and special teams. I am a team player and I will do whatever it takes to help this team win. I am also a great teammate. I was asked back for a 5th year at Notre Dame because of the relationship I had with the players in the locker room. I know I have a lot of football to learn, but I also know a lot about football that I can also teach and help the players around me.

NFL Draft Diamonds was created to assist the underdogs playing the sport. We call them diamonds in the rough. My name is Damond Talbot, I have worked extremely hard to help hundreds of small school players over the past several years, and will continue my mission. We have several contributors on this site, and if they contribute their name and contact will be in the piece above. You can email me at [email protected]

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