The LAFB Network caught up with Michael Ezeike, UCLA’s fifth-year senior tight end, at practice for the NFLPA Bowl at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. The NFLPA Bowl is a great place for lesser-known UCLA Draft prospects to make an impression on pro football scouts from the NFL, CFL, and XFL. Here is LAFB’s conversation with him:
UCLA Draft Profiles: Michael Ezeike Interview
LAFB Staff: What are you guys working on out here?
Micahel Ezeike: Just a lot of blocking stuff, run blocking, pass protection, stuff like that.
LAFB: What does it mean for you to be out here?
ME: It just means a lot of competition. A lot of scouts out here, I’m able to show my ability and what I could do. You know, just excited for the opportunity.
LAFB: What’s something you’ve been able to take from the coaches so far in your experience this week?
ME: The coaches, they have a lot of experience in the NFL. My coach, he played in the NFL for like 17 years. So I just like picking his brain about what he did as a rookie and how like he just experienced the NFL it was like a good experience for me like just getting knowledge and insight on what he did.
LAFB: You’re from southern California originally, went to the same high school as Bobby Wagner [One of my heroes, legend] have you met him?
ME: I’ve met him yea he has camps I’ve been to when I was younger.
LAFB: What about him as a person and his game do you appreciate?
ME: So he came from where not a lot of talent comes out from. That area. And like stays in the league. Especially from like Ontario area, which is not a hugely populated city. So I just looked up to him when I was young. He kind of paved the way for the young just like him and he was an influencer off the field. He is just very influential. He’s obviously an aggressive player, a tough physical linebacker, you know, just everything that he does. Really, I just look up to him.
LAFB: What was it like to play in the Rose Bowl one last time?
ME: Man, I know a lot of dudes, a lot of the guys here was like, man, like you’re back home like this probably just feels like another home game to you. And yeah, that’s absolutely right. You know, love the Rose Bowl, think kind of my home really. Feels really good to be out here one more time. Just looking forward to Saturday and competing with the nation’s best.
LAFB: You had a really great game here a couple of months ago against USC, three touchdowns what was that like?
ME: It was definitely a great feeling to play one last game in the Rose Bowl and score three. I was not expecting to score three touchdowns. It was kind of just a game-time decision for a coach to call those plays for me. Definitely grateful.
Couldn’t be any more thankful for like the UCLA program that helped me get to where I’m at today. Should have been four. I wish it was four. But I mean, definitely feels good. I know some players before me didn’t get to beat them at all. And to beat them twice. It means a lot. You know?
LAFB: You came on the same year as Chip Kelly, first year 2-8 to winning 9 games, what was the big change?
ME: Mostly I would say the culture. Coach Kelly when he recruited me because big on culture and just bringing a new identity to UCLA because as he said, we hadn’t won a lot of games before. Like our class came in. Just having leaders like Dorian [Thompson-Robinson], Bo Calvert, Jon Gaines, they kind of really lead the way and change the program around like little by little each year. And just happy to be a part of like, a nine-win team. We know we haven’t had nine wins. I don’t know how long but yeah, just wishing them the best next year. And hopefully, like you know, they just carry on the culture. winning seasons.
LAFB: Speaking of Jon Gaines, has there been a little bit of trash talk?
ME: You already know. Yeah, I’ve seen him around and talk to him. Man, I can’t wait to get after you guys on Saturday. I mean, I wish he was on our team but just got to compete now and get the dub on Saturday.
LAFB: Speaking of both of those teams you have a lot of former teammates on both teams, do you still keep in contact with guys like Quentin [Lake]?
ME: Haven’t talked to Quentin in a while but Otito [Ogbonnia], he’s my guy. Josh Kelly. Obviously, he’s an influential person. Haven’t talked to them in a minute, but you know, definitely good, good blood, they’re still good friends, family, brothers.
LAFB: So I know a lot of the UCLA guys, they get a degree. Have you been working on it?
ME: Yeah, I actually already got my degree, graduated last spring.
LAFB: What’s your major?
ME: African American Studies
LAFB: And then in terms of off-the-field stuff, what have the coaches been able to teach you about that kind of life after football or even life during?
ME: Yeah, they’ve harped on a lot of just life after football, things. We have like presentations that guys come in and talk to us about and it’s like taking care of money and being financially literate. So yeah, just getting my career together for life after football. It’s like, been a big part of this week.
LAFB: And then during your final season at UCLA, you guys lost a lot of talent in the receiving room how were you able to step up, and some of your teammates able to step up and fill those shoes of Kyle Phillips, and Greg Dulcich and those guys.
ME: Yeah, one of my biggest goals this year was kind of just to step up and play that leadership role that Greg [Dulcich] kind of had last year and I feel like as far as production-wise, I filled my role in the run game. Jake Bobo was also a big part of our receiving like stats and he was a great receiver. Look for him in the draft this year. Yeah, I mean, that’s just how it is at UCLA. You know, if somebody leaves it’s next man up, and I feel like that’s just how it’s gonna continue to be.