Quickly after the 2013 NFL draft, the Buffalo Bills jumped at the opportunity to sign former Howard linebacker Keith Pough to a contract as an undrafted free agent.
Graded as a mid-round draft pick by most draftniks after an impressive performance at the East-West Shrine Game, it was a shock to many that he wasn’t selected after racking up over 350 tackles and setting an FCS record 72 tackles for a loss in his career.
As an undrafted free agent, Pough had his choice of teams to choose from and selected to join the Buffalo Bills.
A vocal, fiery and intense leader on and off the field, Pough was kind enough to answer some questions with me, so let’s get to know the newest member of the #BillsMafia!
Keith, you had an opportunity to play at LSU and Vanderbilt. What made you decide to attend Howard?
Yes, I had a preferred walk on offer from LSU and a scholarship from Vanderbilt. I chose Howard because I was born and cultivated by the HBCU experience; the rivalries, the bands, the rich culture and traditions. I also chose Howard because education is very important in my household and was embedded in my upbringing by virtue of the fact that both of my parents are educators.
My mother, who is very influential in my life, played a major role in me committing to the prestigious Howard University. Since football wasn’t and isn’t a guarantee, she stressed the relevant necessity of academics, earning a degree and having a life aside, beyond and after football.
The only guarantee about being a ball player is that you’re going to be an ex-ball player and you have to have a life after the game.
From the second you turn on your tape, it’s pretty obvious that you’re a relentless player. Which part of your game do you pride yourself on, and what do you feel is an area you need to work on?
I’m a film junkie and pride myself on hours of studying/dissecting film and the mental preparation required to compete at a very high level.
My strengths on the field are my leadership qualities, my high energy, passion and intensity, my knowledge, wisdom and understanding of the game as a whole always me to compete faster and at an elite level my opponent is unable or unwilling to match. I’m a sure tackler, my athleticism contributes to my quickness and game speed.
Areas I will improve on are stack and shedding, reading 3 step and my implementation into the passing game.
You played both inside and outside linebacker at Howard, but posted video game like numbers. Which position do you feel you’re best suited for, being that the Bills are likely operating a 3-4 defense this year?
Along with my athleticism, quickness and game speed, I’m a student of the game, which makes me a very versatile linebacker. I’ve competed and dominated at a very high level being an edge rusher, force and contain player in a 3-4 and produced compatible numbers playing both inside and outside in a 4-3 scheme.
I’m the FCS All Time leader in tackles for loss, acquiring 28.5 my sophomore season playing in the 3-4 scheme, leading the Nation and finished top 3 in the nation the following junior season accumulating 21.5 tackle for loss in the 4-3 scheme.
While I’m highly productive in both, I’m most effective as an on the line of scrimmage linebacker, edge player, blitzing, making plays in the backfield and sacking the quarterback.
Who was your favorite player growing up, and which current player do you model yourself after?
My favorite players and competitors I model style of play after are Ray Lewis and Lawrence Taylor. Take the tall, lanky, lean frame of Lawrence Taylor and combined it with the passion, intensity and relentless mentality of Ray Lewis and you have yours truly, Keith Pough.
When you’re away from football, what are some hobbies that you enjoy?
When I’m away from football I enjoy eating, training, reading, hunting, fishing, spending time with family and watching movies. I’m a home body so if it’s not church, work or any of the those I’ve listed I don’t leave the house.
You were a team captain, you were named the 2012 MEAC player of the year, and you’re an athletic linebacker. How in the world were you not drafted!
Your guess is just as good as mine. I was a four year team captain, I was indeed named the 2012 MEAC player of the year and yes I wasn’t drafted which will remain an unsolved enigma but Arian Foster was undrafted also and he’s doing pretty good for himself.
Although I was disappointed because I wanted to hear my name called it’s not the end of the world. I’m just grateful for Buddy Nix, Coach Pettine, Coach O’Neil and the entire Bills organization for believing in me enough to give my an opportunity.
I will never forget that feeling and use it as fuel for my fire and motivation to be the best defensive player to play this wonderful game. We will revisit that question 12 to 15 years from now and maybe I will have an answer for you.
If you had to choose one song to get fired up before a game, what would it be?
If I had to choose one song to get gassed up and my blood flowing before a game it would be a mix of “Get Right” by Young Jeezy, “BM jr” by Lil Wayne, and “Neck” by Howard University Showtime Marching Band
For more information on Keith, check out his scouting report by Bleacher Report Featured Columnist and Draft Falcons’ editor Scott Carasik (@ScottCarasik) here and take a listen to Draft Insider’s interview with him here at around the 30-minute mark, and visit their website at DraftInsiderSports.com