NFL Draft Q&A: Missouri tight end Sean Culkin
Our NFL Draft Q&A series continues as we catch up with a rare local in the draft -- Indian Rocks Christian grad Sean Culkin, a tight end who went to Missouri just as the Tigers joined the SEC and went to two conference championship games in his time in Columbia. He set career highs last fall with 24 catches for 282 yards as a senior, finishing with 61 catches for 601 yards and two touchdowns in his career. He took a few minutes to talk about his preparation for the draft ...
Q: First, where have you been training to get ready for pro day and the draft?
A: "I just got back to Missouri, but I was at ASPI -- the Compound -- in Tampa. I was there from Jan. 2 until a few days ago, just got back up here. I worked with (USC tight end) Taylor McNamara, (OL) Brian Gaia from Penn State, (DE) Evan Schwan from Penn State, (DB) Ryan Janvion from Wake Forest, (safety) Obi (Melifonwu) from UConn was with us. (WR) Zach Pascal from Old Dominion, those were the guys I was around the most."
Q: What were your biggest priorities in the offseason to improve on in terms of measurables?
A: "Every drill, right? It's a weird type of training that you're doing right now. You're not just training to be the best football player, but focusing on the 40, trying to get my time down. Anything that correlated to football was separation at the top of routes, being physical and polished out of my breaks. That's where the most carryover would be. Back in Missouri, we did a lot of training in the offseason to get us exposed to it."
Q: Take me back through your five years and your experience at Missouri.
A: "Missouri was great. Probably the biggest impact I've had on me as a person is my experience here. Two years we won the SEC East and went to Atlanta for the SEC Championship Game, back to back years. I've had two years of not having a bowl game, new coaching staff. I've had three offensive coordinators since I've been here, so a lot of adversity and trials that nonetheless made me a better player and person."
Q: When you came in, Missouri had never been in the SEC, so it had to be neat to be there for the ground floor of that.
A: "That was cool. That first year, I wasn't supposed to redshirt. I remember Coach (Gary) Finkel said I was the first freshman that was good to play. He wrote me down: He's not redshirting. Then the next play I dove for a ball, landed and snapped my finger. We laugh now that it's in the past."
Q: The nice part is you have five years toward getting a degree. What's yours in?
A: "Finance and banking. Having that fifth year, especially me having more of a receiver type lighter body going in out of high school, I was able to have the frame and size to block in the SEC, that extra year definitely paid dividends."
Q: What did you weigh when you got to campus?
A: "I think I was 220. Now I'm like 250ish, mostly 250-255. 6-5."
Q: As you watch NFL tight ends is there one you like to watch or pattern yourself after?
A: "I watch a lot. The route running of Zach Ertz. I look at guys like (Rob) Gronkowski and Coby Fleener, players like Jason Witten that do everything right. That's where I want to see myself, as an every-down tight end that can line up anywhere on the field."
Q: When is your pro day?
A: "March 23. Next Thursday."
Q: Have you heard from the Bucs? You should be within the radius for their local pro day before the draft.
A: "Yeah, my agent just contacted me not even two days ago. They requested me and I'll be attending."
Q: Who was the toughest player you went up against in college? This is always tough for the SEC guys.
A: "There's been a lot. You look at my practices. Markus Golden, Shane Ray, Kony Ealy, Michael Sam, Sheldon Richardson, those are all dominant players in our league, some first-round picks. Charles Harris, you can add him to the list. I've gone against (Derek) Barnett from Tennessee, Arden Key from LSU. The guy from LSU is really good, he's long, he's athletic."
Q: You answered this a bit already, but who's the best teammate you played with?
A: "I love Mitch Morse (center, now with Chiefs). He was my host on my (recruiting) official visit, just a guy that led by example and did everything right, on and off the field, a great player."
Q: The other question we ask is food recommendations. If I'm at Mizzou, what's your favorite place to eat?
A: "They're going to say Shakespeare's Pizza is where you need to go. That's the bread-winner for pizza. You've got to check it out the first time you're in Columbia. I get everything. I'm a big guy, I like everything on it. Addison's is also a good restaurant you should hit up too."