The New Orleans Saints selected small school pass rusher Trey Hendrickson with the 103rd pick in the 2017 NFL Draft following his strong four-year collegiate career at FAU. Hendrickson popped off the screen as a junior by recording 13.5 sacks across 11 games, and closed out his strong career as an Owl with another 9.5 sacks as a senior.
In an exclusive interview with Draft Breakdown, Hendrickson reflected on his journey to the NFL, starting with his surprised reaction to the New Orleans Saints drafting him in the third round. Hendrickson spoke candidly about the small school concerns, the advice he’s received from Saints veteran Cameron Jordan and much more.
JM: We’re here with New Orleans Saints rookie pass rusher Trey Hendrickson. Thanks for joining me today Trey.
Hendrickson: Thanks for having me.
JM: I wanna’ start by reflecting on the NFL draft a little. What was that weekend like for you? Was the wait agonizing at all?
Hendrickson: Not necessarily. I was more excited for my family and for the whole experience. I wasn’t too worried about when my name was going to be called.
JM: Did you have a huge draft party?
Hendrickson: No, just close friends and family. That was about it.
JM: Do you feel like the New Orleans Saints showed a ton of interest in you pre-draft? Did you have a lot of communication with them, or were you surprised when they drafted you?
Hendrickson: I was a little surprised. I guess looking back, I received a good amount of attention from them. I had a private workout with them but then it just kinda’ fell off and I was still in touch with a lot of other defensive line coaches. When my name was called and I was a Saint, it was kind of a surprise to be honest.
JM: When exactly did they call you to notify you?
Hendrickson: It was about three picks prior to their selection. They were like “Hey Trey, we’d like to tell you that you’re going to be apart of the Saints organization.” I was extremely excited to go to work. This is my first official job, and it feels great.
JM: Not bad for a first job. You tested pretty well at the combine. I thought you had a really solid 40 time. Looking back, how do you reflect on that experience?
Hendrickson: It was really cool to represent FAU out there with a lot of talent from bigger schools. I made sure that I appreciated every moment that I was out there for.
JM: Was it what you expected?
Hendrickson: Yeah, I had a really good trainer in Pete Bommarito and he prepared me well for the on-field drills and the different team interviews. When I went out there, it was just about performing to the best of my ability in front of the NFL coaches and scouts.
JM: You mentioned representing FAU. How did you answer the small school competition questions? I’m sure a few teams brought that up.
Hendrickson: Basically, I just told them that we’re the same athletes at the end of the day. No matter where we come from, we all put our pants on exactly the same. Football is football. If you can play, talent will always get noticed. In this case, I was really happy that I heard my name called in the third round.
Hendrickson did well to show he belonged among talent from any conference with an impressive performance at the East-West Shrine Game. Here, he beats Texas A&M OT Avery Gennesy for a strip sack.
JM: No doubt. What’s the weirdest question a team asked you in a private meeting? I’ve heard some great answers to this question.
Hendrickson: I got asked how many different ways could you use a flash-drive, or what can you do with a flash-drive? That was probably the trickiest question I was asked. That was weird [laughs].
JM: New York Jets tight end Jordan Leggett got into a staring contest with a scout.
Hendrickson: I had that one too [laughs]. I can’t remember which team that was. There’s just a bunch of crazy stuff they have you do and it’s all apart of their evaluations that they have for us players.
JM: I want to talk a little about your pass rush arsenal. Pass rushing is an art really. Do you have a move in particular that’s your favorite?
Hendrickson: Pass rushing is kind of like chess. Whatever they’re showing, you kind of have an arsenal of moves in response to that. I watch for things like if my opponent sets too vertical, or if his shoulders are squared to the line of scrimmage and stuff like that. For me, it’s a read and react kind of thing. There’s never really one move I have in mind. If it’s third down and long for example, I might go with a nice speed rush and set them up for a counter, but that’s really the only situation where I might have a move in mind already.
Hendrickson does a nice job reading and reacting here while showing off some of his position versatility. Playing as a spy, he doesn’t break on the QB until he’s flushed from the pocket as his options are dwindling, and Hendrickson ultimately records the sack. This here is smart football.
JM: Are mind games apart of pass rushing? If so, how do you use them?
Hendrickson: 100%. If you sack the quarterback once a game in the NFL, that’s a 16 sack season. That’s the goal. If you have 30 rushes and you set him up for that one successful rush, you have a pro bowl season on your hands.
While rushing the passer will be priority number one for Hendrickson, he’s quite adequate in the run game as well. Hendrickson successfully takes on not one, but two blocks here at the line of scrimmage before recording the stop.
JM: That’s a good point. You really helped your stock at the East-West Shrine Game. I feel like that’s when your name really started buzzing. What made you want to attend that event?
Hendrickson: I wanted to go out there and represent FAU while playing my hardest. I wanted to show them that guys from smaller schools can get after it too. In that game, I played against a couple of tackles from Michigan, Vanderbilt, Arkansas and schools like that. A lot of those guys got their name called during the draft as well. It wasn’t like we were going against small conference players. It was nice to go against guys that were highly evaluated. I still beat them up out there.
JM: That you did. What would you tell a player in the future if they asked for your advice on whether or not they should participate in a game like that?
Hendrickson: Oh yeah, always attend those all-star games. It can’t hurt. Obviously you have to be safe and take good care of your body. It’s just another game of football, but a lot more scouts attend them. It’s a great chance for you to showcase your skills and abilities, and also for you to introduce yourself in person to scouts and give them a chance to get to know you on more of a personal level.
JM: Looking forward to the present and future, how did OTA’s go?
Hendrickson: It’s going good. I’m just putting my nose down and going to work as I try and earn a spot here. That’s the goal moving forward.
JM: Is there anything that Saints defensive line coach Ryan Nielsen has taught you? What does he have you working on?
Hendrickson: He’s just making sure that we’re all fine tuning the skills we already have. A lot of guys here are talented and can play the game of football. Doing the little things is what separates us from one another. That’s the stuff that makes us special.
If Hendrickson can help his teammates score touchdowns like he did on this play, it’ll go a long way in earning the trust of coach Neilsen and company.
JM: You’ve got some good veteran teammates in your position room. Have you had any great advice from anyone in particular?
Hendrickson: Cameron Jordan just told me to leave it all on the field. He’s making sure that I’m going hard every practice. I’ve been doing that ever since, just really showing off what I have to offer.
JM: I really appreciate your time Trey. In closing, how do you plan on attacking the rest of the off-season, and what can Saints fans expect from you going forward?
Hendrickson: They can expect a Trey Hendrickson who gives 110% on every play. I’m just trying to be the best Saint that I can be. Whatever role they have for me here, I’m excited to get the ball rolling.