Washington Football Team wide receiver Terry McLaurin was good enough to sit down with us for 15 minutes to talk about football as part of a promotion for the new Team Milk (so I lead with a question about that, but the rest are about football). My full video interview can be seen on YouTube here. I don’t need to introduce Terry McLaurin to any of you, so I’ll get right to the interview!
HH: Thanks for meeting with us to do this interview. I’m here representing Hogs Haven, a Washington Football fan community. We were put together by the Got Milk? campaign, why don’t we start by telling us about Team Milk and how you got involved with it?
Sure, yeah. Team Milk reached out to my representatives and provided a unique opportunity for me to partner with them and share my milk journey over the course of my life. It’s really affected my performance and the way I recover. I’m very particular about what I put into my body and it’s really important to fuel yourself with things that are going to help you after workouts, before workouts, and in competition as well, but what was really cool about Team Milk was I really got to show my personality and I got to let people know why milk is so important, especially chocolate milk growing up. It was unique because at first, growing up, I didn’t really like milk in general growing up even though I was told “it’ll give you strong bones and perfect teeth.” As I got into more competitive athletics, I started to realize the benefits of milk and what it does for your recovery process. I’ve used it to make sure my weight stays at the premium weight that I need to be and to help recover my muscles and things like that, so when I got that opportunity I just had to jump on it.
HH: So what’s your favorite kind of milk?
Probably chocolate milk. As I’ve gotten older I drink all kinds of milk, but I specifically target chocolate milk because of how it helps me recover.
HH: Right and you burn a lot of Calories, so you need that extra sugar.
Oh most definitely!
HH: So going to football, every offseason, it seems you work on improving some specific aspects of your game. What have you focused on each offseason since entering the league?
Going into my first year, it was just trying to get acclimated and trying to learn as much as I can, trying to learn from veterans, taking great notes, being a good teammate, being on time, just things that show people I’m serious about my business and that I can be trusted in big opportunities if the plays came up in games. I think it’s really important to set a good foundation on what your career’s going to look like. You want to earn the respect of your coaches and teammates and fortunately enough I earned a spot on the team as a receiver outside of just a special teams contributor that everybody thought coming into the league. I was just open minded seeing how that first year was going to go and I had some individual success, even though the team success wasn’t what any of us wanted.
Going into year 2 I just wanted to prove that I can do it again and that I wasn’t just a 1-year wonder thing, but rather somebody who’s going to come back improved. There would be more film on me and I was developing into a guy that some people see as a number 1 receiver, so I just wanted to make that more solidified and be a guy that could be an every-down type of receiver in big clutch situations. In my second year I was fortunate enough to have 1,000 yards and made the playoffs, which was great.
Coming into my 3rd year, I came in wanting to improve my contested catch percentages and make those 50-50 balls more 60-40 and 80-20 and I’ve been trying to do a good job of that. It’s been documented I worked with Doug Baldwin in the offseason on improving my release.
[Editor’s note: see this excellent article by Keim for more details on Terry’s work with Doug Baldwin]
There have been some things that have shown up early this season that I’ve been proud of and some things that I continue to work on just so I can stop from staying stagnant. Once you get complacent, that’s when things start to go against you. I’m always looking to see how I can improve and what edge I can get.
HH: What are some subtle aspects of playing wide receiver that fans might not recognize, but actually really matter in games?
I think the first thing is your body language and the way you run your routes. I think for me specifically, being a faster guy, I have to be fast, but not in a hurry. I need to be able to sell one route, but execute another route. I need to be able to win at the line. I need to be able to sell vertical so I’m not giving a defender any indicators, which is really important because if I’m a fast player and I don’t play fast, I’m helping the defense. If I’m not dictating, if I’m not using the things we’ve learned in the film study and using the things we’ve been practicing all week, then you’re not going to be successful on Sunday.
That’s just been my mindset so far and I’m still learning. It’s early in the season, which has been great. You just want to continue to see things that you work on getting better and things that you might be struggling with, like your body language (not giving any tells on your routes), you want to see that in film and try and improve that the next week in practice.
HH: In addition to being a great player on the field, you’ve also been very durable. What do you do to take care of your body and prepare it for NFL action?
If I’m not preparing for the game mentally or physically, then I’m preparing for it with my recovery. My number one thing is I try and stretch my body and do multiple massages a week and chiropractic work. I try fueling my body with the right things before practices, making sure my weight is right, and in my recovery process [which includes] drinking milk! It seems like “are you just plugging that,” but it’s something that I really do to repair those small tears in my muscles that I have after workouts and games.
I’ve been very particular all the way back to college about how I regiment my body and it’s very important because the best ability is availability and being the type of player I want to be and my team expects me to be. I need to be available each and every weekend. The thing about football is you never know when your last play is going to be, football is 100% injury. There are some preventative things and reactive things you can do, but you want to be proactive and deal with things before they become bigger issues. I feel like I really grasp upon that and I give the information I’ve learned to the younger guys on our team.
HH: If you could go back in time and give college Terry McLaurin some advice, what would you tell him?
Don’t worry so much! Control what you can control and be ready for your opportunities. That’s helped me so much now that I’m in the NFL. Even when games don’t necessarily go your way, like last week, or you miss some opportunities, or when you’ve dropped a pass (I dropped a few passes last season), you can’t dwell on that. You can only improve and look forward.
Be accountable as well. I would tell myself to continue to be accountable and face your deficiencies head on because that’s going to help you develop them as strengths later on down the road. I think often times where players can get in trouble is when they don’t evaluate their game honestly, they just think everything they do is great and that’s not the case. Everybody has room for improvement in some way.
HH: You mentioned you giving advice to others. What player have you learned the most from and what did you learn from him?
That’s a great question. I was very fortunate my rookie year to have a lot of really great veterans in my locker room: Adrian Peterson (who’s a Hall of Famer), Vernon Davis (I think he’s a possible Hall of Fame candidate), Case Keenum, Jon Bostic, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie... that was really important my rookie year, because you’re going against a veteran corner, so you know right away how you measure up. That was very key for me stepping on the football field in my first OTA, rookie mini-camp practices.
I’ve always gravitated to people who know more than me and can give me tips, and I’m always trying to hash out what to improve and what I can expect and the dos and don’ts in this league. So far I’ve been successful. I’ve had some learning experiences, but I try to pay that forward with the younger guys we have now. I’ve been fortunate enough to be a captain for a second year, but I’m only in my third year. I’m still learning like a lot of young players, but at the same time I feel like I have a lot of veteran savvy given the playing experience I’ve been fortunate enough to have.
HH: Who is the best cornerback that you’ve faced in a game and what made him so good?
I’ve faced some really good ones; being one of the main targets, you’re going to see some good corners. I would say Darius Slay is really tough because this will be my 4th time seeing him and I’ve only been in the league 3 years. The more you see a guy, the tougher it is to get open. I would put James Bradberry in that situation and I’ve gone against Tre’Davious White twice. [It’s tough finding] the ability to get open against those guys that have already seen you, especially when they’re elite in their own right. They study film just like I do. I think those are the tougher matchups when you have to see the same corners over and over again, because the things that gave you success in those previous matchups don’t guarantee you success in your next matchup. But it is cool to go against the top guys, honestly, because you get to see where you stack up.
HH: Speaking of film study, what kind of film study do you do to prepare for games and what kinds of things are you looking for?
It’s very important to go in with the mindset of what you’re looking for in film. What I mean by that is that it’s easy to turn on the film of a game - let’s say I want to watch the Falcons play New York - if I turn on the game, but I’m not looking for anything specific, I’m just wasting time.
I think coach Drew [Terrell] does a really good job breaking down the film for us. At the beginning of the week he gives us a broad overview of the corners we’re going to be facing, what kind of technique they use, the defense, what kind of things they like to do in 3rd down situations and 1st and 2nd down. I start there, because it gives me an appreciation of what we’re trying to do as an offense to attack them. Then I take my individual work study and whether I’m going to get an individual shadow corner this week or a corner that plays left or right [sides of the field]. All of those are scenarios I have to prepare for and watch multiple corners each and every week to be prepared.
I start that Monday evening, but really Tuesday and Wednesday when we get that initial gameplan is when I start breaking down the defenders I’ll be going against. I try to see any tendencies they like to do; how they like to play press man, the technique they use, how they jam, how they play press bail or zone coverage, how they react to the ball, etc.
What I learned as a young player, especially in college, is if you don’t watch the film as detail-oriented as you should, then when you go out in a game, you feel naked out there. You don’t know what to expect and you’re just playing reactive instead of dictating to the defender and the defense.
HH: You mentioned being a team captain. What does being a team captain mean to you and what do you do that maybe you didn’t do before you got the “C”?
Being a captain is one of the things I’m extremely proud of over my career. I’ve been blessed and fortunate enough to be a captain at every level playing football throughout my career. I would like to think it speaks to the type of person I am moreso than just as a player. I don’t try to do it as a rah-rah, beat my chest kind of guy. My leadership style is to lead by example, even though I’m not perfect at all and there are things I’m constantly working on. I just try and be on time, be accountable, be trustworthy to my teammates, because they’re dependent on me to make those plays and do my job on Sunday. That doesn’t just happen on Sunday, that happens when I’m doing my job during the week.
Am I on time? Am I accountable? Do I take care of my body? I think all those things are factors. It’s been cool to see my teammates react to that and to just being a guy that cares. It’s not all about you and your success, you want to see those guys successful too. I’m extremely proud to be a captain on this football team for a second year and I just try to uphold the standard of what we expect and what coach Rivera expects. Something I developed over time was being a more vocal leader and trying to uphold that standard that we set in stone.
HH: We’re about out of time, but is there anything you’d like to say to the fans at Hogs Haven?
I just want to tell them I appreciate their support. I appreciate the support of all the Washington fans. It’s not just myself, but our team is continually trying to fix the things that we need to do to get better. We can’t make any excuses, but it’s a long season and the good thing about it is that we’re 1-0 in our division and the goal is to win the division. We have to take a game-in, game-out approach, but I’m really excited to see how we progress and develop to what happened last week.
HH: I just want to say, on behalf of those fans, we are really proud of you. You’re one of those guys that we’re always so happy to say “this guy’s in burgundy and gold.” It’s how humble you are, how hard-working you are, how great you are on the field, how thoughtful you are, so thanks so much for being on the burgundy and gold and it was great talking to you.
I appreciate that, it means a lot. Every week, no matter the score, I just want people to know I’m going to give it my best.
I really want to again thank Terry McLaurin for taking time out of his day for this interview. His attitude and approach towards the game (and life) is exactly what you want in a player and team captain. I also appreciated how thoughtful, humble, and honest he was in his answers.
Terry McLaurin is currently on pace for 1300 receiving yards this season. How many receiving yards will Terry end up with after 17 games?
This poll is closed
Under 1000 yards (the offense is going to fall apart)
Between 1000 and 1400 yards (he’ll basically stay on the same pace, but maybe with a bit of regression)
Over 1400 yards (he’ll get better as the offense gets better and his connection with Heinicke will grow)