In 2010, University of Miami wide receiver Leonard Hankerson had arguably the best statistical season by a wide receiver in Miami history, becoming just the third player in program history to record a 1,000-yard receiving season and the first to have 2,000 yards for a career and 1,000 in a season. His 22 receiving touchdowns rank third all-time at Miami behind Michael Irvin (26) and Lamar Thomas (23) and he’s one of only three players in school history with back-to-back 800-yard receiving seasons (Irvin, Andre Johnson). Now, as a rookie who’s rarely been active for the Washington Redskins, he’s experiencing a new reality as the competition has elevated significantly.
With the assistance of Brian Tinsman, who works in the front office for the Washington Redskins and owner Dan Snyder as team's chief blogger, I was able to speak with Hankerson to discuss his transition from UM into the pros.
Q: Tell me about the transition from being one of the leading receivers in Miami Hurricanes history to the pros and the Redskins?
Hankerson: It was a very tough transition for me. We hadn’t had any communications with the coaches or staff as a result of the lockout so it was really tough. We essentially had to come in, learn the plays on the fly in training camp, so I found myself just trying to make plays and give it my best.
Q: Did you struggle?
Hankerson: It was hard trying to simply make plays. Plus, I was dropping balls, which made the transition even harder than it should have been.
Q: Looking back on it, what was the toughest aspect of your transition?
Hankerson: Trying to adjust to the speed, the quarterbacks’ arm strength, the ball getting to you quicker than I was used to. It was all really tough.
Q: Overall, what was the biggest difference between UM and the pros?
Hankerson: It was actually coming in and out of your breaks and adjusting to the ball being on you right then. The quarterbacks’ arm on this level is so much stronger and as soon as you turn your head, the ball is right there. That was the biggest adjustment for me – getting my head around quickly to see the ball and catch it.
Q: How have the defensive backs on this level impacted your play vs. college DB
Hankerson: The DBs are smarter on this level and can anticipate what you are going to do before you even leave the line of scrimmage. They end up in your hip pocket and their speed makes the game much harder.
Q: So what have you done to adjust to the stronger, faster DBs?
Hankerson: Really just trying to listen to my coach. Keenan (McCardell) played in the league 15 or 16 years. He knows all the tricks of the trade to get it done. He teaches us how to release and so I’ve been trying to use my hands well to just get off the line.