Our Ron Lippock spoke with offensive lineman Damian Prince, who signed with the Steelers after a tryout at the team’s rookie minicamp.
First, are you staying in Pittsburgh or did you go back to DC after the rookie camp?
I’m still here in Pittsburgh. It’s different here than DC – but it’s good. It’s a really good city. I like the structures and the bridges, and how each section of the city has it’s own identity.
How did the tryout occur?
They reached out right after the draft. I guess they had an idea they wanted to sign me, but some teams have rookie camps one week, others the next. The Steelers were the second week so I had to weigh my options of where I wanted to go – where to go to try out. I talked to my agent and he did his homework to see what team was best for me – which I waned over the others, I had to be good with the decision and pick the right place.
I had a tryout the week before but it didn’t go well. I was discouraged. They said I did well – the coaches and GM told me that, but told me they were never going to sign a lineman at camp. I had good feedback from them but it was frustrating hearing that, I got back Monday, and I left for Pittsburgh again on Thursday. I was mad and frustrated. I was tired and sore after the last tryout and it’s just mentally trying. It’s meant to be tough though – and it’s what you make of it, I guess. But I was wondering if I was just wasting my time. That maybe football was not going to work out for me.
But you went after all…
You look at the odds – they have 60 people there and they may not even want to sign a lineman, just like before. But I prayed on it and talked to me family and agent. I didn’t want to have a reluctant ending – to regret not trying. Football is what I love, and if it was destined to be my last time playing football, so be it. So even if I just got another chance to play, meet Coach Tomlin and see the city – maybe that’s just what I do. I wanted to do it for myself and my family. I’m a competitor.
What do you think they saw in you that had them sign you?
I’m honestly not sure what caught their eye. I never tested off the charts but I can play football once I have my pads and jersey on. There wasn’t one thing that helped me get signed – I just trued to stay consistent.
They want to create adversity for you – to put you in different positions and have you do something you didn’t do before. To see how you react. They played me at multiple positions.
Compared to the first tryout the install was much more detailed. You had to learn quick.
And having your best friend in Derwin Gray there doesn’t hurt…?
No – it doesn’t hurt at all! There are a lot of guys from the city – Marcus Allen, Haden, Sean Davis, Edmunds. Lots of guys from around there. You kind of come in knowing in who they are. We’re all from the same place which makes it a lot easier.
So what’s the plan now?
Just working out…..getting deep into the playbook every night, I’ll go home soon and get more clothes -I only packed for two days! I’ll come back and get appropriately packed then go back to Pittsburgh.
Any of the guys you lined up against in camp stand out to you?
That’s a fast defense bro! They were mostly rookies but we were all going against each other hard trying to make the team. At this level – even the tryout guys – they are still NFL caliber guys. They are all trying to make a name for themselves. I don’t remember who any of the names were though,
What do you think you need to work on now to make the team?
Honestly, I’d kind of like to say that at this level. there’s nothing that I don’t need to work on. You have to look yourself in the mirror and realize nothing you do is good enough. Start from the ground up – literally – from where your feet are to your eyes. All have to be improved. I’m going to be in a room with guys that have been doing this a long time and I will learn from their experience. But I’m going to have to wrk on everything – my pass sets, run blocking, footwork, ….I have to revamp my whole game.
Any thoughts knowing how much importance the Steelers have given to undrafted free agents over the years – including two current starters on the line?
It makes me feel good but I try not to look at it like that. It becomes a psychological game and I need to go in knowing nothing is going to be catered to me. It’s great knowing that you’re not counted out as a free agent, but I know those two starters on the offensive line can start for any team anyway. So I’m trying not to look at it like that. But it definitely gives me the feeling I’ll get a real opportunity.
It was preached in the locker room – the best players will play. I just have to be ready to compete , I’ve got a real opportunity.
You and Derwin both discussed how difficult it was for you growing up in DC – how did that shape the way you approached the game – and life in general?
Really, I have nothing to go home to other than my family. I have a Maryland education but I didn’t exactly spend my Summers interning at JP Morgan. I played football instead. So, this is my one opportunity. I graduated, but I’m all invested in football. I’m one of those people who is blessed but not great at other things besides football. I’m glad I don’t have to go back home and be that lost guy. Just getting an opportunity is a blessing – I think about that all the time. I’m the only one in my family doing anything like this – not that my family hasn’t done things. But I live in an area where there’s not many good things happening. I didn’t want to be back in harm’s way – I’m glad I still have this opportunity.
What should fans know about you as a person – off the field?
One thing that everyone should know is that family is very important to me. I have four nephews that I love dearly. I make sure to carry myself the way I want them to look at me. I didn’t have that that opportunity – a positive influence to give me a position of reference, except for my great grandfather who died a long time ago – God bless him. I explored the world by myself and had less positivity as a reference. Now I’m trying to do all I can to make grandma and mama proud,
I know I’m not even just an undrafted feee agent – I’m a tryout guy. I won’t ever forget the faith the team has shown in me to bring me in for a tryout and sign me. I have a special place in my heart for the Steelers – to give me this opportunity – this platform to prove myself and my talents. I knew it was a special opportunity when I realized that 1933 was the year my great grandfather was born – and the same year that the Steelers organization came about. When I figured that out I knew it was where I was supposed to be. I’m going to come in and stay positive, work hard and know that things will work themselves out – whatever that ends up meaning.
I’m a workaholic too. Blue collar – I love the game of football. Pittsburgh brought me back from the dead. If it wasn’t for the tryout I’d probably be out of football now. I owe Mr Colbert and Coach Tomlin a lot. Now, I’m excited for this great experience. I’m going to be around some great fans and football minds.