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Helmets Off: Joe Mays

Posted Oct 28, 2010

Joe Mays sits down with DenverBroncos.com to discuss his journey to the Broncos starting lineup in this week's edition of 'Helmets Off.'

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- In the days after the Broncos traded for Joe Mays at the end of July, Head Coach Josh McDaniels compared him to Mike Tyson for his tough style of play.

Since then, Mays has rewarded McDaniels' praise, emerging as one of the team's top special teams players and a key contributor to the linebacking corps.

Mays, who led Philadelphia in special teams tackles last season, currently paces the Broncos with five special teams stops. The 25-year-old has added four tackles on defense and made his first start as a Bronco in Sunday's loss to the Raiders.

Before leaving for Sunday's game at London's Wembley Stadium against the 49ers, Mays sat down with DenverBroncos.com to discuss his role on the squad and his road to the NFL.

You got your first chance to start as a Bronco on Sunday. What was it like running out of that tunnel and getting that recognition?

"It was exciting, man. I really wasn't expecting that to happen and then when I came out of the tunnel, it was exciting. I was just ready to play the game, and then hearing the fans gets you pumped up pretty fast, too."

When you got here Head Coach McDaniels had some really positive things to say about the way you play. Did it help your transition knowing he thought so highly of you?

"Definitely. It definitely helps your confidence that a team would actually go out and trade for you. It was a little different in Philly. I wasn't sure where I sat on the totem pole. Here, the coaches like me, and I'm real good with my teammates. Everything is coming along."

Now that you've been with the defense for a while, how do you view your role in the unit?

"Right now, I'm a special teams player that plays defense. I take my role, and I do what I can for the team. I do what best fits me, and that can help the team out."

What's the most important attribute of a good special teams player?

"Not a lot of guys like to play special teams, so it's just wanting to -- having that want to do what you can for the team. Some embrace it like myself, and I'm just embracing it and going out and doing what I can."

Have you ever been to Europe?

"Never. It'll be a good experience even though I won't really get a chance to enjoy it too much because it's still a business trip. I'm going to try to enjoy it as much as I can."

What do you plan to do on the nearly 10-hour plane ride?

"I'm going to sleep the whole time -- or at least, I'll try. I may watch a movie or two, but for the most part, I'm going to try to catch some ZZZ's."

What was it like playing your football at North Dakota State?

"It was fun, real fun. North Dakota State is a football school. We had our diehard fans. They come out there every Saturday and they yell and scream and they get you pumped up. You definitely want to do it for the fans and your teammates. I had a lot of fun. If I could go back in time, I'd do the same thing over and over again."

In your senior season, your North Dakota State team beat Eric Decker's Minnesota squad. Have you ever mentioned that to him?

"I said something to Deck about it. I don't think he wanted to remember that game. He kind of smiled and brushed it off, but he knew that we came in there to win and we did. It was exciting. That was a big win for our program."

You didn't play football until your junior year of high school. What made you want to try football?

"I'd say the fact that you could hit somebody and not get in trouble for it -- just letting out some frustration. At that time, I had a little bit of frustration with everything that was going on in my life. Once I got to football, I kind of embraced it and enjoyed it. Then I started to love it and wanted to continue to do it."

How closely did you follow football before that?

"I was more of a basketball type of guy. I followed basketball pretty much my whole life until I started playing football. I didn't get a chance to watch (football) too much back then. Once I started playing, I started watching."

What's the hardest part about starting to play the game later than most?

"The toughest part for me was learning technique. It's one of those things that it's hard to learn, but once you learn it, it goes with you throughout your life. I learned a lot in high school and through college. It's still sticking with me. I think that was the hardest thing to learn at the beginning."

What was your basketball game like?

"It was decent. Growing up in Chicago, everybody wanted to be (Michael) Jordan. I was one of those people. I wanted to do everything he could do. I come to find out that I was too short and too thick, so football was my avenue."

If you weren't in the NFL, what would you be doing?

"I think I'd be coaching. I'd probably be coaching college football."

How are you liking living in Denver?

"I like the city, man. I like it a lot. I'm a big-city guy, but out here, it feels more laid-back. Everybody just walks around and smiles and goes about their day. And 300 days of sun? You can't beat that. I like the cold weather, too. I grew up in it. I'm used to it. Colorado has been good to me so far."

Have you had a chance to do any exploring?

"I'm saving it until after the season. I'm going to go up into the mountains and relax with my family."