The Washington Post

Gameday Q and A: Niles Paul

In a rather solid Washington Redskins draft class, one of the rookies who has flown under the radar despite significant contributions has been receiver Niles Paul.

Drafted in the fifth round out of Nebraska, Paul has made his mark primarily on special teams, where he serves as lead blocker for Brandon Banks on the kick return unit. Paul also is one of the Redskins’ top special teams tacklers.

Niles Paul (84) hits St. Louis Rams' Austin Pettis on a punt return Oct. 2 in St. Louis. The Rams recovered the ball and Paul was charged with an unnecessary roughness penalty. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)

But rather than get discouraged, Paul has focused on contributing wherever possible.

In today’s Gameday Q&A, he discusses his role on the team, fellow Nebraska rookies Roy Helu and DeJon Gomes, and his experiences as a rookie, on and off the field.

How would you describe your rookie season?

“It’s been like a rollercoaster. Coming in, I didn’t know what to expect, being a fifth-round draft pick. We had a lot of receivers, so I just wanted to make the team and contribute in whatever way I could. I ended up making the team, I started a couple games. So, when I judge my rookie season, I feel like there’s so much more I can build on and I can accomplish. But I feel like I did accomplish what I wanted to accomplish in getting on the field as a fifth-round draft pick.”

How optimistic were you about your chances of o making the team?

“I was very optimistic until we picked up about three receivers. Then I was like, ‘Damn.’ I got a little down on myself, like, ‘These veteran receivers, they’ve been in the NFL a while. But I took that and let it motivate me and I said, ‘I’ve got to set up my game up to where I show coaches what I have, that something that maybe they don’t have, maybe with special teams play and things like that.’”

How crucial was your ability to play special teams?

“Very. Whatever I do, I’m going to do it to the best of my ability. If Danny [Smith] wants me to go out there and run down there and bust open a wedge and make a tackle, I’m going to do it. So, whatever Danny asked me to do, I was going to do it.”

What’s it been like having your former college teammates DeJon Gomes and Roy Helu here?

“It’s been great, because we all got to feed off of each other’s success this year, and just knowing that we all had a chance to start at different points, the success that Roy and D.J. has had, I’m very proud of them and it definitely made it easier to adjust to being in the league.”

What were some of the ways that it helped your transition?

“Just being able to talk to the guys that you’ve been around for a while, being able to talk about anything that you’re going through, it helps.”

I know you have to have some funny stories about the three of you.

“The funny thing is, the three of us, you never catch all three of us together at the same time. It’s always me and DeJon, or Roy and DeJon, or me and Roy. I don’t know why, but it’s always like that. Even in college. We’re just all extremely busy, so we can never catch one of those nights where we’re all together. I always tell stories about Roy, but here’s one about DeJon. Everybody thought DeJon was quiet and reserved, but it just so happens, that DeJon is a very good dancer. We went to this party, and he’s always in his shell, and all of a sudden, he just breaks out of his shell, and it was like a scene from Glee. He was in there just dancing his heart out. Everybody was shocked! We were like this is DeJon? D.J.? So, yeah, there’s one for you.”

What’s the most unusual experience you’ve been through this year?

“The craziest non-football experience was definitely horseback riding, because I was terrified. I almost jumped off the horse because I didn’t know what the hell it was doing. That was crazy for me, because growing up, I never thought about riding a horse, but it ended up being fun for me. I like to do stuff I’ve never done before. I’m obviously not going to put my well-being at risk, but I’m just a random person, like to try a lot of things.”

What were some other things you tried this year?

“Went water skiing. I couldn’t get up. It was like five failed attempts. I finally got up one time, then busted my tail on the water, so I’ve definitely tried some things. All this happened in the summer. Lockout time was about exploration. I didn’t have anything else to do. There are so many more things out there that I want to try.”

What’s next on the checklist?

“I would love, but I don’t know if I could overcome that fear, but I would love to see if I could parachute one day. But snow-boarding might be my next one.”

Mike Jones covers the Washington Redskins for The Washington Post. When not writing about a Redskins development of some kind – which is rare – he can be found screaming and cheering at one of his kids’ softball, baseball, soccer or basketball games.



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