Andy Studebaker was born and raised in Illinois and played at Division III Wheaton College. Studebaker was a sixth round selection by the Philadephia Eagles in the 2008 NFL Draft, but was waived by the Eagles on the last day of cuts. The Kansas City Chiefs signed Studebaker on November 19, 2008 off of the Eagles practice squad.
Over the first three years of Studebaker’s career he has accumulated 59 tackles, two sacks, two interceptions and one forced fumble. In his first start back in 2009, filling in for Mike Vrabel against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Studebaker forced two interceptions and helped the Chiefs with their biggest win of that season.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Andy for Bleacher Report and we talked, among other topics, about the lockout, his roller coaster ride of a career, Mike Vrabel’s influence, Todd Haley and our beloved Arrowhead Stadium.
TG: Do you get updates about the lockout?
Andy Studebaker: “As one of the player directors for the Chiefs, I am one of the three guys that was at Marco Island for the meetings. I get updated pretty regularly on what is going on and we try to communicate that information through us to everybody on the team, regularly, at least once a week. Anytime that we feel there is something that needs to be communicated, such as hey 'here’s the deal with cobra payments.' Let’s makes sure you guys got your cobra payments covered, since we don’t have insurance anymore. You know, just to provide information to guys to give them help as far as where they need to be getting things to and deadlines and things like that. That’s stuff that we (Player Directors) do regularly.”
TG: Do you believe there will be football in 2011 and will it start on time?
Andy Studebaker: “You know that is tough to say. I do believe there will be football, I don’t know what the time table will be. It’s hard to say. A lot of it will depend on the judge’s decision on April 6th, whether or not they block the lockout or not. You know it’s tough to say, we really don’t know at this point. A lot of things are up in the air. I am optimistic but I am cautiously optimistic. I am training as if there is going to be football. My feet have hit the ground running. I am in the middle of spring training mode. Working out, training hard, running, and getting ready to play in the event that there are games. And I know a lot of the guys on the Chiefs are doing that as well.”
TG: Back in your rookie year you were draft in the 6th round by the Philadelphia Eagles. What went through your mind when you were cut by them? Did you get down on yourself or did you get more motivated?
Andy Studebaker: “Yeah, a little of both. First of all, I came from a really small school and I got drafted by Philadelphia and had to learn a system in which I had never seen before in my life. So I was just climbing an uphill battle pretty much the whole way. When you get cut on cut day, you start to think, some doubt creeps in a little bit, you know maybe they are right, maybe I need some more time. But I use adversity as an opportunity to get better. To say 'Hey what do I need to do here to make the team, what is it going to take to get on someone’s roster.' The answer to that was learn the position of linebacker a little better, development more physically, work on the mental aspect of the game. So I didn’t let it get me down too much I just think that in every piece of adversity there is a chance of opportunity. Sometimes opportunity looks like overalls and work boots, and a lot of people missed out on that because they didn’t know what that looks like. To me it was not that discouraging, I knew I could do it, it was just a matter of time and patience.”
TG: And that hard work and patient has now lead to a three year contract extention correct?
Andy Studebaker: “Yes, that is correct.”
TG: Was that a pretty big shocker to you when the Chiefs offered you the three year contract extension? Does that make you feel that you are going to be more in the defensive game plans once Mike Vrabel moves out of the picture?
Andy Studebaker: “You know it is hard to say. I am not the one making the plans for the Chiefs. But when I did finally ink that deal, and the ink dried, you know it makes you feel like some of this hard work is starting to pay off a little bit. It by no means means that I am settled in, and I don’t think that it earned me anything and no sense of entitlement. But it does make me feel like I fit in here. My wife and I love the community Kansas City, we live there. We want to be a part of the Chiefs organizations for a long time, and that was a big step in that direction for us.”
TG: How has mike Vrabel influenced your career?
Andy Studebaker: “I’ll tell you what, I could go on, that guy is a teacher. He is one of the greats, no doubt about it. I tried to get every little piece of information I could off of him while we were together, and maybe still are together, I don’t know that situation. But when he came through the door, he didn’t have to give me the time of day, I’ll tell you that much. He had won three Superbowls, lost one, so he had been to four. The guy’s knowledge about the game of football is unparallel. I mean he knows the game unbelievably, he studies it, but he kind of took me under his wing and taught me a little bit each day. I think that has help me tremendously as I transition to outside linebacker, and ultimately to becoming a pro. Not just in football, I mean, Mike is kind of my mentor, when I am done playing football, I know that Mike had a couple of mentors in his career that helped him along too, and I know that he was trying to do that for me. And I will have him to thank for a lot of things that I learned. He is the ultimate team guy. He is a winner.”
TG: Like a coach on the field?
Andy Studebaker: “Yea, 100 percent true man. He is leader, that is for sure. I am hoping to be that.”
TG: Todd Haley always emphasis the three sides of a game: Offense, Defense, and Special Teams. The NFL recently changed the kickoff rules by moving the ball up five yards on the kickoff. As a special teams player the last few years, do you see the rule change affecting that aspect of the game in a positive or negative way?
Andy Studebaker: “I don’t quite get why they did what they did, if I am being honest. I think they moved it up five yards, so I think it will lead to more touchbacks. I don’t know what that does for the game. I’m not sure why they did it. I think it is yet to be seen what kind of impact it will have on the game. Will kickers just boot it out of the end zone or will they take that opportunity to kick it up higher and shorter to let their coverage guys get down there and try to pin them inside the twenty? I don’t know the answer to that. I don’t know why they did it. I am not going to disagree with it, because I don’t ultimately know what is going to happen, but I just don’t know why they decided to do it.”
TG: Romeo Crennel got a lot of credit for the improvement last year on defense, deservedly so. But how was he able to take essential the same players and improve so much?
Andy Studebaker: “You talk about the reason Mike Vrabel knows so much, is he had a teacher in coach Crennel for a long time in New England. You know, that guy is a great teacher of the game of football. We don’t do anything super complicated, we are a pretty fundamental defense, and we just teach the little things right. If you have eleven guys on the same page, doing the same thing, you are going to have good results. Even if all eleven are on the wrong coverage, if they are on the same page, even if they are doing the wrong thing, you are still going to have good success. But it when guys get off the page, and when they kind of do their own thing is when you have problems. We just focus on tackling well, playing through the whistle, and when you do that, you open yourself up to great opportunity. Because if everyone is hustling to the ball, when that ball pops loose, we have a good chance to get it. He is great at spreading the vision. On Monday morning when it comes time to prepare for the game, when the game plan for the week is sent to us, he gives us a vision and he is great about teaching guys where they fit in that week, why this is so important, and how you are going to help us. You know that is important for young players, very important. We grasp that and latched on to it, and we just have guys that want to play hard. And if you have guys that want to play hard, and do things right, you’re going to have a good amount of success.”
TG: Todd Haley always preaches “be the same guy everyday”, but from a fans perspective he seemed a little more relaxed in 2010 compared to 2009. Did he change or is he still the same guy or did he just improve the way is persona was taking by outsiders?
Andy Studebaker: “Yeah, I think there is a little bit of everything in there. Todd is the same guy every day, in that he wants to win and he wants every single person on our team to be the best they can be. That’s why he is a great coach because he’s pushing us all to be better. Whether he is more relaxed or not you would have to ask him about that. But it was his second year as a head coach, we all knew each other a lot better than when he came in the first year and he didn’t know anybody. We all kind of went through fire that first year, had some tough loses, and things like that. But we were all the same people, we just knew each other a little better, which might of helped people perceive a more relaxed atmosphere. But I will tell you what, we still got pushed to be the best we could be, and I guarantee just because we made the playoffs this year, it ain’t going to change next year. We will be pushed, and that is something good to have. I am telling you it’s good to have that fire.”
TG: Are any of the players getting together this offseason and training together since you are not allowed in the facilities at Arrowhead?
Andy Studebaker: “We can’t be at Arrowhead; we can’t get inside the team facilities. We are going to work on getting guys together. A number of guys have expressed interest in getting together throughout the off-season, as if there was an off-season, and just going through business as usual because when that whistle blows we want to be the guys with an advantage. So we will see what happens, that hasn’t been discussed in detail, but there are going to be some options I believe going forward. The whole idea is let’s get everybody in the same place, as many people as we can in the same place, working towards the same goal. Because that camaraderie, building together, is very important to a successful 2011 season. We will see where it goes, we will probably figure that out in the next couple of weeks, but I would assume something positive like that will happen soon. “
TG: From your perspective, out of every body that you have played with the last couple of years who do you think could be an underrated guy that is going to have a good season this year?
Andy Studebaker: “Oh man, it’s hard to say names. I just think that there was so much improvement all across the board last year, and I’m not trying to give you a political answer, but it’s hard to say. We still have a lot of youth, and so to pick one position group or one guy who is going to blow it up this year, I am excited to see it because I think there will be several. I think guys are working hard and I know guys are working hard, I’ve been in touch with them. Man we lost in the playoff game last year, and that taste of the playoffs, I know guys want it bad. We want to be back there and we want put ourselves in a position to win championships. When you get some guys with that fire in their belly and a coaches staff that is pushing them to be the best they can be, it’s hard telling who is going to blow up. Hopefully it is a lot of guys. We just share team success, that’s what we ultimately want. If it’s a whole bunch of us, that just means we will be playing in some bigger games, and that’s what we want.
TG: Coming from a smaller college, what do you think about arrowhead stadium?
Andy Studebaker: “That place (laughing) is awesome man! I am telling you the most people I ever played in front of in college was about 6,000. So when you go into Arrowhead Stadium on Monday Night and people are waving all those white towels and the stadium looks like it is pulsing, its loud man. It’s awesome. It’s a blessing to be able to play at Arrowhead, we have the best fans in the NFL.”