Marcell Dareus is entering his third season with the Buffalo Bills after being selected third overall in the 2011 NFL Draft. Dareus is one of the spokepeople for New Era, one of Western New York's most recognizable companies and the official hat of the National Football League.
As part of their marketing campaign, New Era made Dareus available to Buffalo Rumblings for a phone interview on Tuesday. Dareus and Stevie Johnson were taking a break from shooting their television commercial when Dareus and I connected. The new campaign is titled "Speak With Your Cap" and the pair will be showing Bills fans how they wear their cap both on and off the gridiron.
Here's the conversation I had with Dareus in its entirety.
Why don't we start by talking about the New Era promotion you guys are doing. Marcell, what's going on today with New Era?
We got a promotion going on now, "Speak With Your Caps." A lot of guys wear different caps and represent different things, and we just want guys to speak with their caps. Be your own person. Do your own thing, and that's what the promotion is now.
With training camp going on Marcell, what's the best way for a fan to approach you for an autograph?
"Hey Marcell, how you doin'?" Once I sign for someone I like that they get to know me more than just an autograph. Anyone can just sign something and go on with their day, but for me it takes more. "How you doin'?" "I'm doin' fine." "What's goin' on with you? How was your day?" That's how we are in the South about getting to know a person. I know you want an autograph; just speak with me a little first instead of just, "Give me an autograph." Ease your way into it. Don't rush it.
What's the strangest thing you've ever autographed?
[On Monday] I signed this pregnant woman's pregnant belly. It was after practice. She was laying on the ground - on cement - halfway on the curb and she says, "sign my belly." A pregnant woman - it was wonderful. Couldn't believe it and never done it before. Happy to do it. First time for everything.
(Editor's Note: here's the happy couple on Monday night, autographed belly and all. Congratulations, guys!)
Did she promise to name the baby after you or anything?
No, but I said, "Me doing this, the child might get some secret power you might not know about."
You are working with a relatively young position coach in Anthony Weaver. What's it like working with a coach who was an NFL player five years ago?
It really means a lot. We call him "Weave." He's a young guy, of course, and he knows what's going on. He knows how the NFL is changing now. He works with us and not against us. He uses our strength to make us better. I like the way he's going. It's a big thing to have a young coach. He's a first-time [coach] but he really knows what he's doing.
Which player or person has helped you the most since you came into the league, either on or off the field?
It's a combined effort. The [older guys] on the team, they took me under their wing. I feel like I'm not a bad guy and I'm not a bad egg, and the older guys see that and they just want to help young players along. Guys like Kyle Williams,, , Spencer Johnson - all those guys took me under their wing and helped me along, and helped me develop into the type of player that I am today.
Which opposing Bills player is the toughest to go against in training camp?
Everyone has been tough to go against. I'm just finding out what my advantage is and exploiting it the best way that I can.
What's the biggest change between the competitions from last year to this year in the one-on-one or team settings?
Usually they double-team me all the time now. That's the biggest change. But, our offensive line coach [Pat Morris] really changed our offensive line's thought process. They're more aggressive this year. They have a good way of how they want to do things and how they want to run the offense. They're in great shape. All around, the offensive line is a whole other team to me. I'm really excited about it. I'm pass rushing, and their skill level has gotten so much better.
How has the faster pace of the offense affected you on the defensive line as you go from play to play in 15 seconds or so?
It affects you fatigue-wise, but we've gotten used to it. We got used to the high-paced offense the whole practice. We can acclimate to it, so it's not really a big issue. We're just trying to go at it at practice so we can get used to it.
I'm going to say a name. Give me one sentence on that person. Doug Marrone:
A guy that really wants to win by any means.
A guy that really wants to win by any means.
I'm sensing a trend. Marcell Dareus:
A guy that really wants to win by any means. For me personally, I will do anything the team wants me to do. Anything they want me to do, that's me.
Stevie Johnson was asked about the playoffs last week, and he said "Why not us?" Do you think the Bills are a playoff team in 2013?
Of course. I feel like we're a playoff team every year, we just have to put it together. To get it together and put it the right way, we can play the best with anybody and hang with anybody. Why not us?
What makes this team different than last year's 6-10 squad that wasn't able to "put it together"?
Honestly, we haven't hit the field against anyone yet, so we don't know. The whole plan is to go at it with the idea that we got this, and we're going to put the work in and put the players in and we put the effort it. We're just so ready for the games that whenever we hit the field, that's when we're going to find out if we're that team.
Last question: how many New Era hats do you have in your collection?
I mean, how many hats do I have in my collection? I would say close to a hundred. [laughs] Honestly, about a hundred hats from everywhere - from London, to Cali, to Alabama, to Atlanta and all over.
That's right. You went to London last year on the bye week, right?
What was that trip like?
Oh, it was amazing. I knew our Bills fans were crazy, but once I saw a couple of '99 Bills jerseys over in London - oh my God - I went crazy. I was like, "Oh my goodness. We got fans all the way in London over here goin' crazy?" Bills fans everywhere.
Anything else you wanted to say to the readers of Buffalo Rumblings or Bills fans in general?
We're going to do the best we can. I promise you all of that every year, and I stand by my word. We'll do the best we can, and we're going to try our best to turn this thing around and give Buffalo something to really cheer about.