Some of the best players in the NFL were once mid-level high school recruits who had to claw their way up the football ladder to prove themselves.
Missouri safety Joshuah Bledsoe is no stranger to that process, and he’s ready to keep climbing on his way to pro success.
Bledsoe spoke exclusively with The Draft Network about his skill set as a safety, his experience at this year’s Senior Bowl, his career at Missouri, and what kind of impact he’ll make at the next level.
JM: You had nine rushing touchdowns as a senior in high school. I thought that was very interesting. How does your experience on offense make you a better safety?
JB: Sometimes I feel like I still think like an offensive player. I always have a pretty good understanding of how a receiver or a running back is trying to attack me. I know how they think. I understand how they try to play the game on that side of the ball. As a defender, it really helps to have a background on offense.
JM: What’s your favorite part of playing the safety position?
JB: That’s an incredibly difficult question for me to answer because I truly enjoy everything about it. There are so many different aspects to playing the safety position and I love all of them. I love playing on the backend of the defense. I can’t single anything out. I really, truly love playing on the backend and being part of that last line of defense. Everything that comes with playing the safety position, I love it. You have to be a leader on the backend and on the defense in general.
JM: What can you tell me about the scheme Missouri ran on defense and what your coaches asked of you?
JB: Scheme-wise, they singled me out. They asked me to handle the slot position. I had to take care of the slot receiver. They basically asked me to cancel him out and remove him from the gameplan (laughs).
Whether that was a receiver or a tight end, I had to take him out of the game. We were confident in our ability to stop the run. That was our big focus up front. We’re gonna stop the run and force you to throw the ball. When the offense had to throw the ball, I had to lock up the slot position.
JM: I love that. They really moved you around though. You spent a lot of time playing coverage in the slot as you said, but you also played near the line of scrimmage. What is it about your skill set that allowed you to move around like that?
JB: I think my body has a lot to do with that. I have the natural size and frame to handle all kinds of responsibilities. I’m a big, strong player, but I can still move fluidly. I can play in the box, but I switch it up. I’m also fast enough to play in coverage.
JM: You were at the Senior Bowl back in January. What was that experience like for you?
JB: That was such a fun experience. It gave me a chance to peek into what things are like in the NFL. I was coached by NFL coaches. It was an experience I’ll never forget. I really enjoyed it. I feel like I went out there and got better as a player.
JM: What do you think is the impression you left on the teams in attendance?
JB: That I’m a baller (laughs). I feel like I went down there and checked all of the boxes. They saw the same player in person that they watched on film. I think every NFL team walked away from the Senior Bowl saying Joshuah Bledsoe is legit.
I think I proved a lot of people wrong too. If you thought I couldn’t do this or that, I did at the Senior Bowl against some of the best players in the country. I competed against those players and showed that I could dominate. I did it with the best of the best. I checked all the boxes.
JM: There’s no doubt about that. We’ve now reached the virtual part of the draft. You met with every team in person at the Senior Bowl, and you’ll now begin to meet with teams via Zoom. How is that process going for you and which teams have you met with so far? [Editor’s note: This interview was completed on February 25.]
JB: I have a meeting with the Saints coming up. I’ve spoken with some scouts. I’ll start to take more virtual meetings in March. I had a bunch of great meetings at the Senior Bowl. There were a couple of teams that were really high on me. The Houston Texans were really high on me. The Vikings and the Colts had a lot of good things to say about me. Every team had positive things to say about me, but those three kinda stuck out a little bit more.
JM: I love to hear that. I’ve really appreciated your time today. In closing, what kind of impact is Joshuah Bledsoe going to make at the next level?
JB: Out of all the rookies headed to the NFL for the 2021 season, I’m gonna be the one that makes a huge impact. Nobody is gonna see me coming but that’s what I’m gonna do.
I’m gonna make the biggest impact next fall.
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