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Joshuah Bledsoe exclusive: Life as a Draft ‘sleeper’, versatility and being suited to the modern NFL

Missouri safety Joshuah Bledsoe is coming to an NFL team near you (AP Photo/L.G. Patterson)

Missouri security Joshuah Bledsoe is coming to an NFL staff close to you (AP Photo/L.G. Patterson)

“Pfffffffffffff.” An prolonged pursed-lip breath alone proves a becoming reply to the query as NFL-bound Joshuah Bledsoe searches for the phrases to describe what receiving THAT name on Draft night time will imply to him. 

When a job opening’s candidates have been bodily and mentally programmed to step amongst the chosen business’s apex workers since as early as kindergarten, the magnitude of the eventual job provide can typically really feel understated, like a mere formality, even.

But the event is not misplaced on those that prevail in faculty soccer’s survival of the fittest, survival of the strongest, survival of the smartest, survival of the unrelenting, resilient, quickest, greatest, luckiest and, finally, greatest. Particularly the Missouri security.

“Whenever I get that call…. I’ve been playing football since I was five, really like right now just to know I’m going to be on a team come next fall it’s surreal, it’s going to be a dream come true,” Bledsoe tells Sky Sports.

“It’s kinda felt like a long process, stressful, but I’m just ready for everything, just taking it one day at a time and I just can’t wait for Draft day to be here honestly.”

Bledsoe (1) leads the fun at the Senior Bowl (AP Photo/Matthew Hinton)

Bledsoe (1) leads the enjoyable at the Senior Bowl (AP Photo/Matthew Hinton)

Bledsoe has navigated his means by the pre-Draft course of with the similar beaming smile and personable nature he radiates as he displays on assembly with each single NFL staff at the 2021 Reese’s Senior Bowl, all of which he felt appreciated him. As far as he’s involved, the build-up to April has been every thing he ‘hoped it could be’.

“They want leaders and tough guys, and that’s the type of player I am,” he stated of his greatest takeaway from staff interviews. “I’m a leader and I feel like I bring my physical nature to the game so I feel like I’m everything they need in a player.”

The Houston native does not profess to rising up “hard” like some youngsters his age did in Texas, and admits feeling blessed to have had each dad and mom in his life when others in a comparable place may need solely had one. He particulars a childhood during which it was not solely mum and dad steering him on the proper monitor, however a whole neighborhood of coaches and mentors.

And it exhibits, as the query ‘Who is Josh Bledsoe away from soccer?’ prompts him to volunteer his time and consideration to aiding buddies and teammates: “They can talk to me about whatever, I’m always going to put a smile on their faces.”

Bledsoe (1) celebrates a play with Florida defensive back Shawn Davis during the Senior Bowl. (AP Photo/Rusty Costanza)

Bledsoe (1) celebrates a play with Florida defensive again Shawn Davis throughout the Senior Bowl. (AP Photo/Rusty Costanza)

His NFL motivation does not essentially stem from private turmoil, childhood adversity and even rejection, however as a substitute a footballing ascent considerably in the shadows.

“I feel like I’ve been slept on my whole life,” he defined. “From coming out of high school I didn’t really get the big time offers, I got Missouri and that was good enough for me and I’m happy where I ended up at, but I wasn’t really rated as a high recruit because people just didn’t really believe in my ability for some reason and it’s been like that my whole life.

“It’s nothing new at this stage, I’m nonetheless going to proceed to show all people incorrect. It simply gave me a chip, a little bit extra of an edge and that is at all times good.

“I like when people underestimate me because it just gives me that extra push to go and prove them wrong.”

Bledsoe was a three-star recruit popping out of Dekaney High School as he dedicated to Missouri following different presents from Rice, Louisiana-Monroe, Southeastern Louisiana, Texas-San Antonio and Tulane. He entered the fold instantly upon arriving as a freshman in 2017 and by the finish of his 4 seasons had racked up 130 tackles, 7.5 tackles for a loss, 18 move deflections, one interception, and one pressured fumble.

In that span he additionally garnered a popularity as the staff’s high cowl security, sometimes splitting time between excessive security, slot nook and even linebacker as he pit himself in opposition to the various attributes and bodily statures of slot receivers, operating backs and tight ends.

Bledsoe is projected as a mid-round pick at April's Draft (AP Photo/L.G. Patterson)

Bledsoe is projected as a mid-round decide at April’s Draft (AP Photo/L.G. Patterson)

“I’m just a versatile guy, you can put me anywhere you need me on the defensive side of the ball and I can play whatever position at a high level,” he stated. “Whatever the scheme is and wherever the team needs me scheme-wise I can do that at a high level.

“I really feel like protecting clever I’m the greatest security in the Draft that, with my measurement, can play and cowl man-to-man in opposition to the smaller slots.”

Bledsoe offers the kind of hybrid package that defensive coordinators were enamoured by with Arizona Cardinals linebacker/safety Isaiah Simmons as he came out of Clemson last year, his game film depicting the blend of assertive box tackling and meticulous press coverage capable of meeting the NFL’s need for flexibility.

His man coverage expertise were underlined in October’s 45-41 win over LSU when Bledsoe swarmed Terrace Marshall’s quick out route to break up Myles Brennan’s intended pass and ice a decisive goalline stand with 16 seconds to play.

Two weeks earlier in the 2020 opener against Alabama he had flashed a glimpse of his less discussed adeptness on deep assignments, displaying exceptional coverage to match DeVonta Smith’s go route stride-for-stride while simultaneously rotating his hips and keeping his eyes on the ball to snuff out Mac Jones’ pass in the end zone.

Bledsoe believes he possesses the traits capable of helping him flourish in a modern defensive scheme.

“That nickel/slot security is so essential particularly in at present’s league, you want any person who can do each,” he said. “That may be in the field or step out and cowl these shiftier guys.

“There are not a lot of people that can do both of those jobs at a high level, I feel with my ability and skillset I fit perfectly in being able to do that. I will be valuable to any team that Drafts me.”

Every proficient security wants a dependable accomplice beside him and Bledsoe had simply that, with Mizzou’s potential to deploy him in the slot aided by the presence of a gifted excessive security in Tyree Gillespie, who may also enter the 2021 Draft.

“Man, when you’ve got two top guys out there like that it just makes it exciting,” stated Bledsoe. “It just gives me more confidence knowing I’ve got somebody that’s just as good as me if not better right alongside me. It’s just fun, it feels easy when I’m back there with him.”

Given the elevated worth receivers now placed on launch strategies and patterns, refined footwork is an integral asset for safeties alongside their ball-tracking and footballing IQ, particularly for considered one of Bledsoe’s protection duties.

Bledsoe's interception against Mississippi State (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

Bledsoe’s interception in opposition to Mississippi State (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

His sole interception in 2020, which got here in the closing recreation of the 12 months in opposition to Mississippi State, arguably typified the participant he has turn into. Defending a second-and-10 from the Mizzou 13-yard line, Bledsoe was insistent on displaying Jaden Walley inside to gauge his true intentions, recognising the nook route, attaching himself to the hip of the receiver and out-working his man to snag the decide at the again of the finish zone.

“Technique is everything,” he stated. “If your technique is where it needs to be you can cover anybody, no matter how quick a guy might be, how fast a guy might be, if you stay on your technique and believe in yourself and your ability then you can cover anybody you want to.”

It in the meantime requires little digging to unearth the 5’11”, 200 pound defensive back’s vigorous tackling style, which is perhaps reflective of a man who studies Tyrann Mathieu and compares his game to that of the Kansas City Chiefs safety.

His bigger frame, the agility he offers and the fierce competitiveness he operates with has made him a match for both the size of a tight end and the nimbleness of a slot threat.

“I do not concern no man,” he added. “When I’m on the market it is a conflict in the recreation of soccer so it is kill or be killed. You’ve both acquired to present up or any person goes to do you incorrect. I simply really feel prefer it’s extra of a satisfaction factor.”

Bledsoe successfully defends a pass intended for Florida wide receiver Freddie Swain. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

Bledsoe successfully defends a pass intended for Florida wide receiver Freddie Swain. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

Bledsoe’s versatility dates back to Little League football when he initially started out as a quarterback, playing the position up until the latter stages of his freshman year at Dekaney before being shifted to safety.

Looking back, he deems the position change as valuable education in his development as a defensive playmaker.

“There was one other man that had kinda overwhelmed me out at the quarterback spot so that they moved me to security and then from there it was simply my pure place as a result of my father performed nook and my brother performed nook as properly, protection sort of runs in the household,” he said.

“I used to be at all times an offensive participant and I nonetheless really feel like I can play offense at a excessive stage. Just having an offensive mindset and enjoying protection it makes my defensive play even increased.”

His speed and overall athleticism paved the way to him also occasionally contributing as a running back and kick returner in addition his duties in the secondary. Bledsoe finished his senior year at high school with two interceptions, a pass break-up and around 30 tackles, as well as nine rushing touchdowns, one receiving touchdown, one fumble return and one punt return.

Despite the glowing reviews, he was overlooked by a number of the leading college programmes as he headed for the Old Gold and Black of Missouri.

Bledsoe found a home away from home in Missouri (Cal Sport Media via AP Images)

Bledsoe found a home away from home in Missouri (Cal Sport Media via AP Images)

Eventually it became difficult to imagine college life anywhere else, Bledsoe’s time there also notably providing him with the opportunity to matchup against the schools that had passed him by.

“Honestly, Missouri was the place for me,” he explained. “Looking again I really feel like that was the greatest place for me.”

“Everybody needs to go be a part of the Alabamas, the LSUs, they’ve already acquired high expertise at their faculty, at Missouri, we get expertise however we do not get the five-star and four-star recruits yearly like the relaxation. So to have the option to go to Missouri and have the option to compete in opposition to different high programmes and present I may be dominant in opposition to them has actually helped me a lot.”

Bledsoe credits the Missouri coaches that put their faith in him and offered him a platform on which to shine as major influences in his growth both on and off the field.

“I really feel like they performed a crucial function in me turning into a man,” he said. “College is essential, that is when individuals truly turn into who they’re in life.

“Especially coach (Ryan) Walters, who showed me a lot as a man and as a player. He took my game to the next level as far as letting me play how I want to play, but critiquing me on my game so I can feel free out there on the field.”

Projected as a mid-round prospect, he now waits to discover out which NFL teaching employees can be scheming methods to exploit his versatility, simply as Mizzou did.

“I’m very excited, it’s just like the unknown,” he stated. “I really don’t know where I’m going to end up, I don’t know what kind of scheme I’m going to end up in so it’s being nervous and excited at the same time to be able to go to the next level.

“But no matter staff takes me is aware of they are going to get a dawg for certain.”

For updates on free agency and the 2021 NFL Draft, be sure to follow along at skysports.com/nfl and on Twitter @SkySportsNFL.

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