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NFL Draft

JR Pace: 2021 NFL Draft Prospect Interview Series

  • The Draft Network
  • April 24, 2021
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When searching for talent on Day 3, NFL teams value production and experience. If your favorite team is looking for a prospect with the skill set and comfort to play any spot in the secondary, former Northwestern defensive back JR Pace could be the player for the job.

Pace, a do-it-all safety who put up big numbers for the Wildcats, spoke exclusively with The Draft Network about his impressive collegiate career, why he feels like he’s not getting enough respect throughout this process, and why a team should take a chance on him in this year’s draft.

JM: How do you look back on your time at Northwestern?

JRP: I look back with fond thoughts. I had a great time at Northwestern. They helped me grow as a person. I became a better player on the field. Northwestern made me a better man. I’m very appreciative to everybody that lent me a helping hand. 

JM: Tell us a little about what your experience was like at your Pro Day.

JRP: My Pro Day was an amazing experience. It felt very surreal. We had a ton of NFL coaches, general managers, and scouts in attendance. It was a full house. I thought I had a good day. 

I don’t like making excuses. The coaches were aware of my situation and what happened a week before my Pro Day. I was training when another prospect accidentally dropped a weight on my foot during their workout; that was unforeseen and unfortunate. This happened just one week before my Pro Day. We had some complications with that. We made it through and I think I did well.

JM: That’s very unfortunate. You made the most of the day. You recorded 169 tackles, eight interceptions, and 23 passes defended in what was a stellar four-year career at Northwestern. Do you feel like you’re getting enough respect throughout this process?

JRP: Not at all. I feel like I’m being completely overlooked and undervalued right now. That’s been a bit of a theme for me throughout my football career, though. It’s nothing new. I’ve always been the underdog. All it does is fuel my fire going forward. I’m ready to compete for a job at the next level.

JM: We have no doubt that you have a great chance to make an NFL roster. I’ve enjoyed watching you on tape. What’s your favorite aspect of playing the safety position?

JRP: I love the flexibility to move around the defense and impact the game in a variety of ways. I didn’t always get a chance to showcase that ability at Northwestern because we were very strict with our scheme. We had a lot of checks and whatnot. I love roaming the secondary and moving sideline-to-sideline. I can come downhill and play in the box. I love playing football, period.

JM: Tell me more about the scheme at Northwestern and what your coaches asked of you.

JRP: They asked a ton of us. We had a set base game plan but we changed and altered things every week. We were very nuanced. The secondary, we kinda coordinated the defense. We had to make the calls. We played sideline-to-sideline. We played in the box. Our defense was so complex that anytime somebody lifted up their foot if the offense made any adjustments or motions, we changed something up on defense. We had to know the different checks. We did all kinds of things on defense.

JM: It sounds like a difficult defense to play in, but it prepared you for the NFL. You’ve spent the last few months meeting with NFL teams virtually on Zoom. What’s that process been like, and who are some of the teams you’ve met with?

JRP: It’s been a fun process. Teams are calling my phone. I’ve spoken with the Colts, Eagles, and Falcons to name a few. A bunch of other teams have been in contact with my agents.

JM: That’s great. If you could sit down and talk football with any NFL defensive back, who would you choose and why?

JRP: I would definitely pick Tyrann Mathieu. I think he’s one of the greatest defensive backs to ever play the game. I’d love to learn and understand how he plays the game in his own words. He has such natural instincts. I feel like I play the game with great instincts as well. He can play in the middle-post, he can come down in the box, and so on. He can play man coverage. He can do it all really. I would love to sit down with him.

JM: That’s a great choice. I’ve really appreciated your time today. In closing, why should an NFL team use one of its draft picks on JR Pace?

JRP: I think I’m one of the most instinctual players in this draft. I have a great feel for the game. I understand how to get my hands on the football. I created a bunch of turnovers at Northwestern. I know how to make plays. 

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