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Interview with Poona Ford’s Former Coach: B.J. Payne



Poona Ford, B.J. Payne, Buffalo Bills

On Sunday, new Buffalo Bills DT Poona Ford’s high school coach B.J. Payne gave an exclusive interview to Buffalo Fanatics’ Kevin Siracuse on the Writer’s Club live show.

B.J. Payne Hilton Head Poona Ford Buffalo Bills Interview

From their relationship as adults to his time teaching Ford at Hilton Head, Payne provides great insight into the Buffalo Bills’ latest big-name addition.

When did you meet Poona, and what stood out to you? (17:15)

“I met him when I came down and interviewed for the [Hilton Head] job. I saw him in the hallways and then obviously when I took the job, my introduction night and press conference. The thing that amazed me about him [was] he was a very quiet, mild mannered young man. Really didn’t say anything, he’s not much of a talker. But just seeing his size, I mean he was – everybody talks about his height. I know earlier I said he was 5’11”, so we can’t cheat him, he was actually 5’11” and 5/8ths at his pro day. I know that 5/8ths matters to Poona.”

Poona Ford: High School Athlete (18:07)

“He was 280 lbs as a sophomore and ended up playing [his] junior and senior years for me at about 290/295lbs, but just his length, his body, his athleticism. He’s an incredible athlete, played basketball, played baseball until he went into just football when he started picking up all of his offers. He’s ambidextrous, he can throw the ball with both hands. He is a very unique athletic talent that people a lot of time, just because of how they view him or see him and think he’s short and squatty, they don’t realize all those things about him.”

“An incredible young man who thought his future was going to be in the Marines. That’s where he was going. Then I got here and we kinda changed that direction and moved him to defensive line. If you actually go back, and Seahawks fans loved this when he was with them, but if you go back and you go in and you google him and watch his high school film, he actually played some fullback and tailback for us, and was actually really, really good at it. He was like Jerome Bettis, being as big as he was.”

The Difference Between a 1-Tech DT and a 3-Tech DT (27:09)

“In a 4-3 (Buffalo’s defense) perspective, you play with two interior defensive linemen. One is generally a 1[-tech], so he’s a shade outside of the center, he’s on the outside shoulder of the center. The 3-tech would be on the opposite guard of the nose guard, outside the shoulder, almost between the guard and the tackle, and then you’ll have an end, or a stand-up, or two ends on each side.”

“A one-tech is usually your nose tackle type, your nose guard, take on the double teams, eat up space, where your 3-tech ends up being a little bit more active. He’s your penetrator. I think in the system that has been there is Ed Oliver is your 3-tech.”

“Typically, you’ll get more of an ‘athletic’ type guy to play the 3-tech. Somebody who can penetrate, get up the field, cause havoc. Your 1-tech is a guy that’s going to eat up space, be a good run stopper, and allow your [line]backers to run and keep them clean.”

“We literally would just line him up as a 3-tech and Poona’s the only defensive lineman that didn’t have any responsibilities. Football IQ through the roof. We just let him go make plays because that’s what he did.”

– B.J. Payne on Poona Ford in high school

How do you see him fitting in with the Bills defense? Can Poona Ford push DaQuan Jones for the starting role? (33:46)

“I can tell you this, it’s obviously going to come down to making plays[.] Poona doesn’t go anywhere, doesn’t do anything to be second-best. He’s the ultimate competitor. He’s going to come in there to play[-] He’s coming there to start. If he is the starter then he’ll earn it, if he’s not then somebody else will earn it, but this isn’t aI’m signing a contract for a year to come and just rotate in occasionally’. He’s coming to play football, he’s coming to make a statement, and to be a starter.”

Have you talked to Poona since he signed the deal with Buffalo? (34:51)

“I have. Poona and I talk almost every day, so we’ve had a tremendous relationship since the moment I got there [Hilton Head]. We’re extremely close. My daughter jokes, Sonia, she says that Poona’s my oldest daughter[.] We’re really close. Whenever he comes home, he always comes by the house and he’s absolutely phenomenal. We talked through the entire process and we always have.”

“When we went through the draft process and he didn’t get drafted, we talked through all of that. Y’know, the NFL is all about the right fit – and when he signed with the Seahawks, we knew there was a need there and we knew that there was opportunity there. He went for less of a signing bonus because, I mean rookie deals are rookie deals, but less of a signing bonus to go to Seattle because the point behind that was [that] it doesn’t matter that your signing bonus is as an undrafted free agent if you don’t make a team. You can do a signing bonus for $25,000 or have one for $50,000 but if you don’t make that roster that’s all you’re going to make. We have a relationship build on love and trust and so every step of the way he calls me.”

Tom Pellissero said that he took less money to come to Buffalo. What did he have to say about that/Buffalo in general? What is he expecting on Sean McDermott’s defense? (36:19)

“When Tom had made that tweet and talked about that, somebody was like ‘Oh, that’s agent talk’ – It’s not agent talk. He literally turned down more money to come to Buffalo. He knows Buffalo, he loves Buffalo, so I’m gonna tell you a little bit of backstory on Poona.”

“Poona was primarily raised by his paternal grandmother – His grandmother’s husband, the one that Poona knows as ‘grandpa’, he’s from Buffalo. So, all the years growing up, Poona and his family used to do summer trips to Buffalo.”

“He’s excited to be back in a 4-3 defense in which he can do what’s his best ability to provide help and play with, and that’s within a 4-3 defense. Now, he can play 3-4 nose, but he’s not an end, so he’s excited about the opportunity and he’s excited to be on a team that has a chance to win – That’s a big thing for him. I can tell you for Poona Ford’s entire life, [he’s] the ultimate competitor. I don’t care how much money he’s making, if he’s a professional athlete or not. Winning and losing matters to him.”

“His five years in the NFL, we talk after every game but if they win, we talk that night, if they lose, we talk the next day, because I know that he doesn’t want to talk after a game if they lose. [He’s] the ultimate competitor, he’s not going to say two words, he’s just going to bring his lunchbox every day and go out there and grind.”

B.J. Payne had a lot more to say. For the full interview, and the rest of the Writer’s Club show, check out the Buffalo Fanatics YouTube channel.

Featured Image: Alika Jenner/Getty Images

One of the owners The Sports Wave, and a Journalist at Buffalo Fanatics, I'm an English immigrant living in Canada. A huge Buffalo Bills fan, I also love my Boston Celtics, Toronto Blue Jays, and Queens Park Rangers.

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