Shutdown Corner - NFL

The fine people at Gatorade arranged for me to have a little interview time with Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford(notes) yesterday.

From what I’d seen of Stafford in other interviews, he seemed like an agreeable and easy-going fellow. And he was yesterday, too, though I was pretty sure I detected just a tiny bit of a “I’m getting really tired of answering questions all day” sort of vibe. But God bless him, he buried it for long enough to chat with me for about ten minutes yesterday, before heading to the ESPYs later in the evening.

Since he’s already talked with Yahoo! Sports about the football side of things, I tried to keep things lighter and a bit more personal. Here’s how that went.

MJD: Hey, Matthew Stafford. How are you?

Matthew Stafford: I’m doin’ pretty good. How are you doing?

MJD: I’m great. Thanks for taking the time today.

Stafford: Sure, no problem.

MJD: So, in high school, you were a Parade All-American, and in college, your Georgia teams won three bowl games. When’s the last time you were on a losing team?

Stafford: Hm … I don’t know.

MJD: Ever?

Stafford: Yeah, I don’t think I’ve ever been on a losing team.

MJD: Wow. Does it make you nervous at all, then, joining a team that went 0–16 last year?

Stafford: No, it really doesn’t. You know, I think we have an opportunity to turn things around. We have Coach Schwartz, and some new offensive and defensive coordinators that are really going to help us out.

MJD: Cool. I’ve heard you talk in other interviews about how good Calvin Johnson(notes) is, but I’m wondering if there’s been any mention between you two about the Georgia vs. Georgia Tech rivalry.

Stafford: Oh yeah. We definitely let each other know about it. He never beat us while I was there, and the year after he left, they finally beat us, so I told him all they had to go was get rid of him, and they could finally win some games.

MJD: You think you guys will make some kind of bet this year when that game rolls around?

Stafford: I would assume so.

MJD: Have you undergone any rookie hazing yet?

Stafford: Not really. All the guys have been pretty cool.

MJD: You think maybe they’re saving that for training camp?

Stafford: Oh, absolutely. I’m sure they are.

MJD: What is the coolest thing you’ve gotten to do since being drafted?

Stafford: Probably … I don’t know, the ESPYs will be pretty cool. Maybe Letterman, too. Those things have been the top two.

MJD: The ESPYs are tonight, right?

Stafford: Yeah, they are.

MJD: Have you gotten your gift bag yet?

Stafford: Yeah, I’ve gone through the Standard Hotel and gotten the gift from the gift suites, but I have not gotten it from the award show yet. We’ll see what’s in store.

MJD: Does wearing a football helmet make it difficult to maintain girl-approved hair?

Stafford: It really doesn’t.

MJD: No?

Stafford: (chuckle) When you get off the field, it’s pretty easy. Axe Hair does a pretty good job of helping us out.

MJD: I wanted to ask about an older story from before the draft, where the 49ers said they weren’t interested in you because wouldn’t answer some psychiatrist’s questions. Is there something I’m missing from that story, or is it just as weird as it seems from the outside?

Stafford: Yeah, I think it was a miscommunication between myself, coach and the media, but I actually went out on a visit to San Francisco and met with Coach Singletary a couple of weeks after that. We hashed it all out and realized that, you know, it wasn’t maybe exactly how we wanted it to come out in the magazine, on both sides, or wherever it was, on the radio or wherever. We took care of it.

MJD: Cool. Just generally speaking, what has the last couple of months of your life been like? Has it been pretty crazy for you? I would imagine it has.

Stafford: It has. Yeah, it’s been pretty crazy. I’ve been traveling a bunch. I’ve probably traveled more in the last six months than I have in my entire life combined. It’s been a lot of fun. I’ve got to meet a lot of cool people, see a lot of cool places, and it’s been a whirlwind. But at the same time, I’ve really been able to concentrate on football, which is good.

MJD: You wanna tell us a little bit about what you’re doing with Gatorade?

Stafford: Yeah. I’m actually here at the Gatorade Athlete of the Year High School Awards, and it’s a great opportunity for a bunch of pro athletes like myself, Kevin Durant and Landon Donovan — we’re the three male pro athletes — just to give back to these kids. We have a chance to interact and Gatorade does such a great job of infusing themselves into sports and what the athlete really needs at all three levels of, you know, high school, college and the pro level, and they do a great job of creating opportunities for all three levels of those sports to get together and really interact and help each other out.

MJD: If you could have dinner with any three people in history, dead or alive, who would they be?

Stafford: Dead or alive? Hm. Wow. We’ll go Abe Lincoln … Michael Jordan … and Tupac.

MJD: Wow. Pretty diverse group there.

Stafford: Yeah. It would be a fun dinner.

MJD: What’s the last movie you saw?

Stafford: “The Hangover.”

MJD: What’d you think of it?

Stafford: I liked it.

MJD: Yeah, I thought that movie was hysterical.

Stafford: Yeah, I thought it was really funny.

MJD: What’s on your iPod right now? What are you listening to?

Stafford: Oh, man. All sorts of stuff. I really do listen to like, almost everything.

MJD: Oh, really? Anything recent that you like a lot?

Stafford: I don’t know. I like, um … I don’t even know. I like a bunch of stuff, really. I can’t think of something recent. Sorry.

MJD: What’s one thing you enjoy doing that people would be surprised to hear that a football player does?

Stafford: Oh, man. I was going to say golf, but probably everybody knows that. I don’t know, I really just golf, watch movies a bunch … I don’t know. You could say golf, but I bet people wouldn’t be surprised. I don’t really do too many surprising things, I guess, on the hobby side of things.

MJD: How is the golf game these days?

Stafford: It’s pretty good. I’m about a 10 handicap right now.

MJD: Not bad.

Stafford: Hopefully, next offseason, I’ll get a little bit more time to play, and get that score down.

MJD: Any thoughts on the British Open this week?

Stafford: Yeah, I hope Tiger wins it. I’m a huge Tiger fan, and hopefully he can get it done.

MJD: You mentioned you like to watch movies. What are some of your all-time favorites? What’s in your top five?

Stafford: I really like “Gladiator.” I like “The Dark Knight.” I really liked, when I was a kid, “U.S. Marshalls.” I like funny movies, too. “Old School” and “The Hangover.” “The Hangover” was up there; I liked it.

MJD: Cool. Say your house catches on fire, and all your loved ones are out and you’re safe. You’ve got the opportunity to run in and grab one thing, one possession. What would it be?

Stafford: Oh, man. Is the Detroit Lions playbook inside or outside?

MJD: (chuckle) That’ll count. We’ll say it’s inside.

Stafford: Okay. I’ll go with that. Make them happy over there.

MJD: How much bigger is the Detroit Lions playbook than the one you had at Georgia?

Stafford: It’s really not too much bigger.

MJD: Really?

Stafford: Yeah, we ran a pretty pro-style offense at Georgia, and it’s pretty similar actually to what we’re running right now in Detroit.

MJD: From what you’ve gone through so far, with the minicamps and stuff, has it been easier or harder than you anticipated?

Stafford: It’s about what I anticipated. I don’t know if it’s too much easier, or too much harder. I really anticipated it being a grind, but at the same time, I thought I was going to be successful, and I think it’s about panned out how I thought.

MJD: If you could wake up tomorrow with one superhero power, what would it be?

Stafford: Hm. Probably be able to fly. That’d be sweet.

MJD: If you could fly, where would you go, what would you do?

Stafford: I would travel all over the place. I don’t know. From L.A., I would probably go to Hawaii, and then kind of work my way around the world that way.

MJD: Well, hopefully, at some point in your career, you’ll get to Hawaii for a few Pro Bowls.

Stafford: I know. That’d be nice, right?

MJD: Absolutely. Alright, that’s about all I have for you.

Stafford: Alright, buddy.

MJD: I really appreciate you taking the time today.

Stafford: No problem.

MJD: Have fun tonight.

Stafford: Take it easy.

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