In 2011, one dimension of the Baltimore Ravens that underperformed was the offensive line.
After losing Pro Bowl guard Ben Grubbs in the offseason, things began to look much worse. The Ravens addressed that need by drafting guards Kelechi Osmele and Gino Gradkowski in the 2012 NFL Draft.
But the offensive line improvement didn’t end there. Once the draft ended, the Ravens called former Illinois offensive lineman Jack Cornell. The Ravens quickly signed Cornell, and he is expected to compete for a roster spot at either guard or tackle.
Here is the interview with the newly signed Jack Cornell:
1. What was your reaction when the Ravens called you offering a contract?
“I was elated to get the call from the Ravens. I had an idea going into the draft weekend that they would be the team I ended up with, but to finally get that call was such a relief and a dream come true.”
2. Did you have any contact with the Ravens leading up to the draft?
“A couple weeks prior to the draft I got a text out of the blue saying, “This is John Harbaugh from the Baltimore Ravens.” He said they had talked about me in their draft meetings and they liked me as a football player. I didn’t believe it was him at first, but when I found out I was pretty pumped. Their offensive line coach Andy Moeller called me a couple times and had me workout for him on campus at Illinois. I guess I did good enough for him to call me back. Moeller said they may or may not draft me but that they wanted me to be a Raven.”
3. Did any other NFL teams offer you a contract after the draft?
“The Dolphins and the Bengals offered me contracts, but they never reached out to me like the Ravens did so it was an easy choice given the roster availability for offensive linemen.”
4. Have you had any contact with your teammates/coaches since you signed with the Ravens?
“I talked to Jeff Allen who plays for the Chiefs now about how it’s hard to believe we are about to start competing in the NFL. Seems like yesterday we were freshmen just learning how to play college football.”
5. Who were some of the toughest defensive linemen that you faced in college?
“In the Big Ten we went against good defensive linemen every week. Certainly, Whitney Mercilus everyday in practice was a tough task, Devon Still from Penn State, Jerel Worthy from Michigan State my Junior Year, Kawann Short from Purdue, even Aldon Smith when we played Missouri. There is a lot of top tier talent in that conference that we had to battle every week, but nothing like what I am about to face in Baltimore.”
6. How do you think your former teammate Whitney Mercilus will fare in the NFL?
“I think Whitney is a heck of a football player and is someone who is going to work his tail off to make himself and his team better. He is going to be thrust into a role there that he should do very well at and I know he is going to have a tremendous career.”
7. Are there any current NFL linemen that you study or model your game after?
“There are a lot of current NFL linemen that I enjoy watching. Obviously, when you have a guy like Matt Birk who has been in the league forever he is doing something right and I can learn a lot from him. I think Logan Mankins is a tough lineman and I know every guard wants to have a career like his. I got the chance to watch Jake Long play in college when Illinois played Michigan and since then I followed him. He is certainly an elite left tackle who is one of the best in the business. Joe Thomas is another guy like that who plays with great technique and the best pass protector in the league.”
8. What does having four players drafted in the first two rounds of the draft say about Illinois University’s football program?
“I think having 4 guys drafted from Illinois shows how hard working we are and how well coached we are. I’ve seen a lot of guys at Illinois go on and are still playing at a high level, and I think that foundation was built by Coach Zook and his staff.”