We saved the best for the last… During March you were able to read our interviews with the NFL stars. As Turkey, we were fortunate to welcome NFL players through the AFWB Camps. During the camps most the players were very friendly to us and we were able to conduct interviews with the 11 of 12 NFL stars. We have already published our interviews with DeAngelo Williams, Alex Mack, Jordan Cameron, Gary Barnidge, Breno Giacomini, Johnson Bademosi, Erik Lorig and Will Svitek. Our last interview is with the Cleveland Browns’ linebacker Barkevious Mingo.

Röportajın Türkçesini okumak için tıklayınız. (For the Turkish language version please click here.)

Mingo was drafted sixth overall by the Browns in the 2013 NFL Draft. He still is one best prospects of his class. He was so sincere during his time in Turkey that he spared half an hour of his time to us in a very cold Saturday evening in ITU. This interview was delayed due my travelling schedule but me and my fellow columnist had really great time talking to Mingo. I hope you will enjoy reading it… If you can make it till end of this interview, a surprise from Alex Mack is also waiting for you…

Kaan Ozaydin: Hi Mingo, so you are here in Turkey for three days right now. Is this your first time in Turkey

Barkevious Mingo: Yeah, this my first time in Turkey. Great country, great city of Istanbul. I am loving my time here.

K.O.: Are you planning to come back?

Mingo: Definitely. I would definitely want to come back here.

K.O.: We would love to have you here on regular basis…

Mingo: Regular basis? If I can come here and watch some football games that will be great…

K.O.: So you were drafted as the sixth pick of 2013 NFL Draft. You were one of the highest prospects of the year but your rookie season didn’t go as well as you expected I guess. You had an injury…

Mingo: Yeah, I had an injury early, same with this year but I injured early and I guess as far as the season not going the way I wanted to… First year, there is a lot coming at you, you try to learn a lot, you try to prove yourself to the coaches and the players, that they drafted you and that you worth about the draft spot so there is pressure. But, I guess when you forget about that just go out and play the like I’ve been doing since college. It made it easier. You get more comfortable playing and then you enjoy the game again, you let that pressure go, you just go and play football and rest takes care of its self.

K.O.: And this season you got improved a lot and there was a game against Colts. You kind a teared up Andrew Luck, right? (Laughs)

Mingo: (Laughs) Like I sad, overtime when you get comfortable playing you just saw everything clix, you react more in yourself and thinking about what you going to do and you go out and do it and make plays, help the team win games.

K.O.: You used to play defensive end during your days at LSU but right now you are playing as an outside linebacker. Was it hard for you to switch positions?

Mingo: I started at college, I played linebacker. I loved it, early in my coaches decided that I’ll be better playing defensive end so they moved me there, I did well at that spot. And coming out my college, I love the coaches, they saw me better as outside linebacker because of my frame and the speed I had and I have. That’s where I was drafted at and that’s the position I play now. The positions are similar but at linebacker there is lot more coverage aspect, you have to know more, its growing on me every year, each time goes on and I am loving it, I have to some much, I have more freedom and the way the coaches use me I can be out drop a lot one game and the next game teams will think I am going to drop a lot and I am coming at them and they don’t block me so it is like I have a lot of freedom and in that aspect I like it a lot. It its let me be whatever I want to be. I can go out and do whatever. (Laughs)

K.O.: What do you want to say about your fellow LSU players? You guys dominated the draft of 2013. I mean there where Eric Reid and Tyrann Mathieu. I mean those guys are becoming kind a superstars right now…

Mingo: Right. There is a lot of guys right now. I think it shows that LSU program is… We are getting our players ready to NFL. Those guys are drafted high but they are also playing in the high level right now. We have two receivers from the past year’s draft, Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham and those guys are tearing it up right now, they are killing it. We have two running backs with starting jobs and they were competing for the job in LSU. Alfred Blue from Houston Texans and Jeremy Hill. In this year’s draft… Jalen Collins… I mean with that program, you come in if you are good player and they make you a great player.

Berk Orkun: The transformation is amazing…

Mingo: It is! I loved my time there. Coaches are great…

K.O.: So why did you chose LSU? Because you were a four star high school players…

B.O.: Louisiana, for the food? (Laughs)

Mingo: Yes! Probably for the food! (Laughs)

B.O.: Louisiana kitchen man! (Laughs)

K.O.: As a four star high school star? It wasn’t just the food, right?

Mingo: Yeah, it was the food (Laughs). I lived in Louisiana pretty much my whole life, I didn’t want to go too far from the home and it was close enough and it was a perfect fit, it was my hometown school. It was the best choice…

Gorkem Sahinoglu: Did Alabama try to recruit you?

Mingo: They actually offered me before LSU did. I got the Alabama offer…

G.S.: What do you think about the rivalry between Alabama and LSU?

Kaan Özaydın, Barkevious Mingo

Mingo: It’s crazy! It’s so great, I mean any of you guys want to go and watch a college game that’s that I would say go to this. In either location. It doesn’t matter… It’s always going to be a big game… I’ll tell a story, I am in high school, I watching a game there (LSU) I am sitting as close to the next man as you are right now and I am yelling, I can’t hear myself yell, the guy next to me he can’t hear his self, he can’t hear me. It was that loud, I am not making it up, like I swear. (Laughs)

K.O.: Do you miss that?

Mingo: I miss that! Well actually I mean, I get that on the field but when I was in high school, I met this game, an LSU Football game, LSU, Alabama… Those guys were playing, it’s crazy…

G.S.: Can we compare it to North Carolina and Duke, the B-Bowl?

Mingo: Definitly that would be that kind of rivalry. Teams playing in high level at highest level in college football and basketball… But I would say that our rivalry wasn’t a hatred rivalry it was a respect rivalry, I mean, they’re good, we’re good, we’re going to kick their but, doesn’t matter. Its a fair competition, year in and year out, either team would be have a losing record but when you are playing againts that team, you’re going to show up… You will be like “We’re gonna beat them! We’re gonna kick their ass!” (Laughs)

B.O.: In Cleveland, you have a strong fan group too. So I think there is nothing to miss…

Mingo: Right, the fans in Cleveland are just good as those in LSU.

B.O.: It is a football city…

Mingo: Exactly! Cleveland is a city that love sports. I don’t know you guys been in Cleveland but the weather makes the city miserable. The fans, our fans, they look for anything to get them up…

K.O.: They are quite loyal I guess…

Mingo: They are very loyal fans! They love their basketball team, they love their baseball team, they love their football team and like I said, they are just loyal fans, they love their sports Teams, they love to get up and come out in snow this high (very high) they are going to be in stands, they will dust of their seats because there is too much snow on it. They going to be there, cheer, they will always be there…

K.O.: So what do you think about your new logo? (Laughs)

B.O.: For color blind people… (Laughs)

Mingo: (Laughs) I loved the new logo! (Laughs) I think it’s a great design… (Laughs) The guys that came up with it, I mean, I thought…

K.O.: Were you excited?

Mingo: I was excited for a little change but you know, sometimes change isn’t the best thing…

K.O.: They thought that too, I guess…

Mingo: You can’t really change much but I mean, change is good sometimes… (Laughs)

B.O.: So they decided for a little change..? (Laughs)

Mingo: Yeah just a little change, you just go with it. I mean we went to a darker, vibrate, bold orange… (Laughs)

B.O.: So, today they informed us that Josh McCown has signed with the Browns…

Mingo: I saw that last night…

K.O.: Were you expecting something like that?

Mingo: Honestly, no. I’ve been disconnected from everything over there for a while but I think anybody that they bring in that’s going to help win games, we are up for… Me and Gary, Gary Barnidge…

K.O.: Because Brian (Hoyer) is like a local hero to fans…

Mingo: He is a local here. The city loves him. Hometown guy, work hard guy. I mean, I can’t speak for the city but I am pretty sure, they will still love him even if he is not there, I hope he’ll be there. He is a great player, great guy, great teammate…

K.O.: How does this quarterback situation affects you?

Mingo: It doesn’t. I mean, it is a business but the players know that if we are not winning, they going to change the quarterback, so we have to win. Winning is what keeps everybody in the locker room, so you win, you keep the locker room together. If you don’t, they will go out and try to find ways to help the team win. If they think that is going to help us win then… I mean I’ve been abroad for a while, they didn’t say that Brian was going, hopefully it’s going to be a competition so will see how things will go when we get to OTA’s and camp and between those three guys.

[Couple of days after this interview Brian Hoyer signed with the Houston Texans]

K.O.: Last season you were about to make the playoffs. I mean, you are out of playoffs for while, for a long time actually. You lost some close games at the beginning of the season. What happened after Alex (Mack)’s injury? It seems like whole team collapsed and lost…

Berk Orkun, Kaan Özaydın, Barkevious Mingo

Mingo: When Alex left, we kind a lost our identity. We tried different stuff, I mean, Alex is a great Player, he is probably the best center in the NFL.K.O.: I like (Nick) Mangold too… (Laughs)Mingo: He (Alex Mack) is the best… (Laughs) When you lose a player in his caliber, you got to change a lot of stuff, unfortunately we weren’t able to adapt, we wanted to keep winning those games. I think when Alex went down, we were like 6-3 or something like that I don’t remember the exact but we were top of the division, everybody had the same amount of wins, same amount of loses, tied for the division. Then you stuff happens, like injury, you just go to overcome that and that comes with bringing in new guys and make sure that the guys that back up our starters are just as good them and they can make those plays, it’s hard to replace Alex Mack… You can’t have the number one and the number two centers in your team. (Laughs)B.O.: There is no cap for it…Mingo: (Laughs) Exactly. You have to make sure that your backup guys are good. I think that is what the organization is trying to do, bringing more quarterbacks in and try to win games, I mean that’s the bottom line in the business and that’s what we are trying to do.K.O.: What do you think about Johnny Football (Manziel) because he is quite famous in Turkey due to his days in college? Actually he and Tim Tebow because there lots of fans who follow NCAA Football… What do you think about him, is he ever going to make it NFL as an elite quarterback or is he going to end up like Tebow?B.O.: When he was drafted there was a huge hype around him. Do you think that effected him?Mingo: I don’t think so. I mean, everybody liked him in the locker room but at the same time we go for the guy that win games. There was lots of pressure to put him early, we were winning games but they still wanted to put him in…K.O.: I think that affected very badly…

Mingo: But it wasn’t that…

K.O.: I mean after the QB change you lost the games…

Mingo: The QB change happens like all the time. Three, four games into season, left till end of the season… We have lost game up until that point. But, I mean, stuff happens…

B.O.: For example, we Washington Redskins…

Mingo: Is that a Redskins’ jacket? (Laughs)

B.O.: “Burgundy and Gold Til I’m Dead and Cold” (Laughs) So, we changed three QBs but you changed a lot of QBs, more than us.

Mingo: Now you have to break down over there. (Laughs)

B.O.: There is a rumor that you are going to draft Marcus Mariota…

Mingo: Even after bringing McCown..?

K.O.: We don’t know that yet, that news is quite fresh right now…

B.O.: Just in case, if Mariota comes in to your team, how do you feel?

Mingo: I mean…

G.S.: Did you know him? (Laughs)

Mingo: I never played him but I don’t think that would be the move they make. Obviously now…

K.O.: Let’s hope so…

Mingo: You just paid a quarterback to come in so you won’t draft… You paid one last year, you pay one this year, you won’t be paying another one in that same year. They won’t do that. That’s not, I mean… I DON’T KNOW, I DON’T KNOW WHAT THEY’LL DO (LAUGHS)… In my opinion I wouldn’t do that…

K.O.: Thanks for your honesty… (Laughs) One last question, what are your career goals. In short term, are we going to see you in Super Bowl or Pro Bowl?

Kaan Özaydın, Görkem Şahinoğlu, Barkevious Mingo

Mingo: Those are definitely the goals that I have. I want to be able to say I am a Super Bowl champ. I want to be in a Super Bowl game. I want to be in the Pro Bowl. Ultimately I want to be in the Hall of Fame. Those are goals every player have. It takes a lot of works to put in to achieve those goals, I mean, I am in it! Definitely I am working hard for it. I think the first step starts with the improvement of the team because when everybody is playing in the high level it raises everybody’s level. That’s a cliché but it is true. If you are playing in the high level, Alex is playing in the high level, if Alex plays in the high level he is going to make the nose tackle work it high level. Joe Thomas, if he is playing high level and bring it every practice, he is going to make me better. He is going to make Paul Kruger better, he is going to make all of us better. Nothing but Joe… I got here last year and great guy, he pulled me to side…K.O.: Joe, Joe Thomas?Mingo: Joe Thomas, Pro Bowler, you know better than Mack (Laughs)K.O.: That is bold man… (Laughs)B.O.: I will let him know. (Laughs)

Mingo: (Laughs) I mean, those guys just helping me you know you go as a young player, hearing from him, “do this and this players have hard time covering it” so he is giving me tips that he struggles with, you know, if he is struggling with it, HE IS THE BEST! this (other) guys will definitely struggle with it! Thats the thing that I am saying. He is playing in the high level, he is helping me improve my game, play at high level and I think that what it takes to win games.

K.O.: OK! Thanks a lot, we will cheer for you this season as NFLTR.

Mingo: Thank you, thanks a lot…

K.O.: So can we write that part, I mean the comparison between Alex and Joe Thomas? (Laughs)

Mingo: (Laughs) Uhhhh…

K.O.: What do you say? Say it on the record man, I am a lawyer… (Laughs)

Mingo: (Laughs) You are a lawyer…? (Laughs)

K.O.: Yes or no? (Laughs)

Mingo: What do you wanna write, again?

K.O.: Joe Thomas, being better than Alex Mack…

Mingo: It’s a fact! (Laughs) Go ask him (Alex Mack), don’t say that I said it, just go ask him… (Laughs) Go and say “I have a question for you, who is the better player, you or Joe Thomas?” I wanna go there first…

G.S. and B.O.: Thanks man, have a great season!

Then we started to run through midfield, where Alex Mack was standing with Gary Barnidge… By the way while we were heading there, Mingo just tackled Gary Barnidge WWE style… After the wrestling moves of Mingo, I was able to ask the infamous question and the answer was simple…

K.O: So Alex, we were doing an interview with Mingo and he told us that, Joe Thomas is better than you…

Alex Mack: He is!

K.O.: He is?

Alex Mack: What was the question? (Laughs)

K.O.: There were no questions… (Laughs)

Alex Mack: He is one of the best left tackles who played the game and left tackles are better than centers, they are more valuable…

K.O.: We asking his permission to write this down and he said let’s ask Alex…

Alex Mack: Yeah! No question, Joe is a really, really good player. He is been in eight Pro Bowls. He is a good friend of mine. I like him a lot. Left tackles are more valuable. It is a really tough position, you there is more space… You going to get some of the best pass rushers, you have big defensive end coming at you. I also think centers are important but left tackles are hard to come by…

K.O.: Thanks a lot…

Mingo: You put me on the buzz! You supposed to ask him a question! You were like “MINGO SAID”… (LAUGHS)

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