Defensive Tackle Treyvon Hester
From quarterback Derek Carr, to running back Jalen Richard, and defensive end Khalil Mack, the Oakland Raiders have found their fair share of success in recent years plucking players from outside college football's "Power Five" conferences.
This year, two players of the Raiders nine-man draft class – tackle Jylan Ware and defensive tackle Treyvon Hester – are products of "small" schools, and with some noticeable departures along the defensive line from last year's team, Hester, in particular, is looking forward to contributing in 2017.
"[I'm] very disruptive, a two-gap kind of player," said Hester. "Someone who demands a double team. Someone who can help free up his edge rushers, and allow my linebackers to flow to the ball."
The three-team All-Conference player finished his career at the University of Toledo with 11 sacks, and now, the big defensive tackle will have the opportunity to line up next to a fellow MAC-product in Mack, the reigning AP Defensive Player of the Year, and one of the premier edge rushers in the NFL.
"He's a great football player," Hester said when asked about Mack. "Khalil Mack comes from the MAC conference too, so we share a lot of similarities. He went to Buffalo, I went to Toledo, so we're two, underrated players who have a big chip on their shoulders, and want to come in and show everybody what we can do."
Upon entering the league – and even following his being named the Defensive Player of the Year – the Raiders All-Pro defensive end has continually discussed the chip on his shoulder he carries as a result of coming from a small school, and how uses it as motivation in all facets of his game.
"Just the fact of coming from a small school, it was just blowing up the whole time," Mack said at the start of the Raiders Offseason Workout Program. "It was one of those things like, 'He comes from a small school, can he really play in the big league?' So that's still what I'm trying to prove today."
With 30 career sacks in just three seasons, Mack has certainly proven he belongs, and now Hester, whose collegiate conference scheduled featured games against Akron and Bowling Green, not Alabama and Ohio State, carries that same chip on his shoulder, but he sees the perceived slights against small school players as more of an institutional – not individual – one.
"I really don't look at is a small school kind of thing, I just look at is as certain coaches just really don't understand the talent that's at these schools," Hester explained. "It just really takes the right eye for someone to notice what a player can do out there."
With Denico Autry, Justin Ellis, as well as fellow rookie Eddie Vanderdoes now in the mix, the Raiders will look for another strong campaign from their big fellas in the middle, and with Rookie Mini-Camp now in the books, Hester is looking forward to getting to work with defensive line coach Jethro Franklin and the group as a whole.
"It's an honor," Hester said. "It's an honor to work with a great group of guys that I'm about to come in and work with. I know that all of them boys work hard. I know they give their all on the field, and I just want to come in and help contribute."