Redskins Gameday Q&A: E.J. Biggers on high school and college roots, and being a role model

E.J. Biggers during the preseason lined up at every cornerback position and last week played strong safety. (Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)

E.J. Biggers during the preseason lined up at every cornerback position and last week played strong safety. (Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)

When the Redskins looked to upgrade their cornerback position this past offseason, they drafted David Amerson in the second round and signed fifth-year veteran E.J. Biggers, reuniting him with secondary coach Raheem Morris, who coached him in Tampa Bay.

Throughout offseason practices and training camp, the former seventh-round pick displayed his versatility, lining up at all three cornerback positions. Last week, Biggers lined up at strong safety for the first time since his high school days, filling in for the injured Brandon Meriweather.

Biggers is still working to define his role in the secondary, but aims to do whatever possible to help the Redskins win.

For today’s Gameday Q&A, we sit down with Biggers, who discusses his journey from North Miami Beach High School to Western Michigan to the NFL, and how his home town remains near and dear to his heart.

MJ: What did you want to be when you were a little kid?

EB: Me? Wow. Well, I always loved sports, so I wanted to do something, so playing football or basketball. One of those two. I can’t really say too much after that. I can’t really remember.

MJ: When did you feel like you had a legitimate shot at becoming a pro football player?

EB: My junior year of high school, it was more high school. When I was younger, it was both, but when I got to high school, it was strictly football. That was my dream, and now it’s coming true.

MJ: What gave you the confidence that your goal was possible?

EB: In high school, playing down in Miami. The talent level was so good down there, and being one of the top players down there, you knew you had a chance, and you expected to go on to a big school and go to the league. The big school didn’t end up happening. I mean, I went to a D-I, but it wasn’t a major D-I. But always had the skill level, and I knew I could play – especially when you’re playing against guys that went to the NFL.

MJ: What position did you play in high school?

EB: I played quarterback and defensive back. Played safety, cornerback. I was a really good quarterback in high school. I loved to throw, but I ran a good amount. I did have a lot of yards passing, though. But I played both ways, which was the standard. Everybody did at my school, so, that’s what I did.

MJ: What made you stick with defensive back over quarterback?

EB: Well, I was one of the top defensive backs and I knew I wasn’t getting too much taller. Not many schools were talking to me about playing quarterback. I knew if I wanted to go D-I, and not a [historically black college], then I’d play DB.

MJ: Did you think you had a chance to make it to the NFL despite playing for a small school?

EB: Well, my freshman year, I was there with Greg Jennings. So you watch a guy like that and you say, ‘Second round? Okay.’ And Jason Babin was a little before me, but he was a first-round pick, so it’s like, ‘Okay, yeah, you can come out of Western.’ And also, seeing other guys from smaller schools, you know, there’s a lot of roster spots on teams, so you’ve just got to go in there, playing hard at all times. And we always played against the big schools, like Florida State, and we played them tough, just like everybody on our schedule, so we knew we’d make it.

MJ: What’s something not many people know about E.J. Biggers?

EB: I’m a big family guy. I spend a lot of time with my family in the offseason. I’m real close with my aunts and all of my cousins. I have a little brother, two step brothers, and my dad has two other kids. But for me, I grew up with my little brother, Emmanuel, and my step brother, Roger, and I grew up in the same household as Louis Delmas, who plays for Detroit. He grew up with us. Like I said, those are the guys I grew up with and am real close with. And a lot of people don’t know I have a cousin that plays for the Miami Heat – first cousin – Udonis Haslem. We’ve got a good little family history in sports right now.

MJ: So I guess you guys had some pretty competitive backyard games, huh?

EB: Well, me and Delmas were always on the same team. Udonis was older than us, so we were always watching him. But me and Delmas, if I was quarterback, he was always the receiver. If I was corner, he was always the safety. Or if he was at corner, I was at safety. That was since Little League, when we were like 11 or so. (Delmas, like Biggers, went to Western Michigan, as a free safety).

MJ: What does E.J. Stand for?

EB: My name is Edjuan, so that’s something my high school coach with. He said he was tired of saying my whole name, so he said, ‘Why don’t we call you E.J., man?’ So, it stuck from my freshman year.

MJ: What do you like to do when you’re not playing football? I know you mentioned family, but what else?

EB: Probably playing video games, chilling with my family, or calling my girl, because she’s in Detroit right now. Or watching “SportsCenter” or something. That’s really about all I do.

MJ: If you weren’t playing football, then what would you be doing?

EJ: Something in the community. I love that. When I go home in the offseason, I do a camp – a little weekend camp – and we’ve done that the last four years, five years, five years. We do a football camp, we do a summer basketball camp, we had a Madden challenge this year. Every year we add something different and new to it. When I’m home, I’m always at the high school. I love being around those cats. Like, yesterday, they had a game, and so I was texting with all those cats at the high school. My little brother plays on the team. Like I said, I’m just real close to everybody on that team. I’ll take them around, bring food to practice, just whatever they need. I just love my high school, I love my city, love Miami, love North Miami Beach, where I grew up and want to do whatever I can to help. So, I’d be doing something in the community. Hopefully, I can open something like a Boys & Girls Club when I’m done with football.

MJ: Why is that so important to you to stay plugged into your high school like that?

EJ: I am still really close with my high school coach, Jeff Bertani, and we had a real, real close relationship. It’s still like that to this day. We probably text daily. He’s been a father figure to me. And I just love youth and seeing those guys growth. I feel like if they see me, if I can do it, then they can. If I can do something positive – I want them to be better than me. I tell them that all the time. And I love those guys. I’ll be wrestling with those guys, rolling around on the ground, just having a good time. I spend a lot of time with them, Delmas spends a lot of time with them. A lot of us come back. It’s just something we do. I’ll go to workouts in the morning and then in the afternoon, go sit in the cafeteria, hanging out with the cafeteria manager, chill out with security. Like I said, I love my school, and want to let those guys see you can come out of North Miami, which when I was coming up, wasn’t too positive, and that I’m still the same person, and that I love them.

MJ: Did someone set that example that showed you ‘this is the kind of influence I want to be.’?

EJ: Max Jean-Gilles, who was with the Philadelphia Eagles four or five years. He graduated my freshman year of high school. He was the first. He went to the University of Georgia. He used to always come back, he and Tommy Richardson. They were the two big recruits and stuff. And when he got to the league, he was always bringing stuff back. And he’s coaching now, too. And like I said, all the guys come back together because we have such a good relationship with my coach. It’s everybody from the same Little League, same high school and now we’re all spreading out in the league, but we still come back.

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