'Play Vicious': Peanut Onwuasor's guide to playing NFL linebacker

"You have to be hungry every single day, every single practice. Come out there and fight and dominate everyone in front of you." - Patrick Onwuasor. Cammett/Diamond Images/Getty Images

Ravens linebacker Patrick Onwuasor, originally undrafted and now in his third NFL season, is a rising star at the position for the Baltimore Ravens.

Onwuasor, a recent NFL Africa Zone player of the week, explains his mentality as an undrafted player, his nickname that stuck, as well as what he thinks about when he steps on the field.

KweséESPN: Let's start easy. How did you get the nickname "Peanut"?

Onwuasor: When I was little my basketball coach called me Peanut. He said, "I'm talking to you with that small head!" and that just became my name. Everyone started calling me Peanut. Some people don't even know my real name. I got a tattoo of it. [Onwuasor shows off a Mr. Peanut tattoo]

KweséESPN: After being an undrafted player out of Portland State in 2016, has your mentality changed as you've progressed?

Onwuasor: You have to be hungry every single day, every single practice. Come out there and fight and dominate everyone in front of you. Being undrafted, your back is against the wall so you have to always come out and be ready to go. Just be confident.

KweséESPN : How did you prepare for this season?

Onwuasor: First things first, you have to take some time off. Relax your body, relax your mind, and then slowly start getting back into it. I do more of DB drills, backpedaling, catching the ball and things like that, and slowly getting back into a groove. I won't lift weights everyday during the offseason until I get back. I like to do a lot of running, things like that. Just try to let my body recover from the season.

KweséESPN: How do you deal with competition at your position, especially from teammates you're friendly with?

Onwuasor: Just go in there and just play football, the coaches will make the decision at the end of the day. We just go out there and compete and play.

KweséESPN: What are the expectations of you on Don Martindale's defense, next to C.J. Mosley?

Onwuasor: Play vicious, play physical, play fast, play dominant, just fly around and be around the ball all the time.

KweséESPN : What happens in your mind when the play is called in?

Onwuasor: First thing I think is, 'Get the call, relay the call, close the front'. Same thing as the front side backer, the mike backer, it's looking at the formations, looking at the front, making adjustments if we have to make adjustments, and playing ball. So understanding the play call, looking at the formation while you're getting the play call, thinking of the first three plays they do in this formation, and then going off the adjustments after that.

KweséESPN: What are some cues for linebackers to look for prior to the ball being snapped?

Onwuasor: Just little cues... a tackle might tell you something, a guard might tell you something, a running back's stance might tell you a lot of things... his width, how deep he is, how short he is, to give you [ideas].

KweséESPN: How do you approach and defend passing plays?

Onwuasor: My mindset is more about balance. Gotta be able to play the run and the pass. When it's pass, the first thing I do is go off the call. If I got a hook job, I get in my drop and then I look for routes. I try to see what type of routes I'm getting. The wide receivers... sometimes if two goes out and one comes in I might be getting a dagger, I can probably steal that play as a weak-side backer. Just looking at routes and things like that.

KweséESPN: What do you enjoy most, stuffing a running back for a loss, sacking a QB, or breaking up a pass?

Onwuasor: I feel like all three are huge but our main goal as linebackers is to stuff the run. I can say getting sacks and breaking a pass are like little sprinkles [on the Sundae], but all three are huge.

KweséESPN: How does trash talking go for linebackers? Do you all talk trash to players at specific offensive positions?

Onwuasor: I'd probably say the outside linebackers get into it. They talk trash most with the tight ends, and the inside linebackers talk trash more with the running backs, and sometimes with the O-linemen because they are in our way when we're trying to make the tackle.

It goes 50-50 with the O-linemen and running backs but I'd really say the running backs. Because when you give them a good hit, they'll get up saying, "That ain't nothing" or something like that. I think I got into it with Marshawn [Lynch] one time last year. He said something and I had to get on him. It was just my natural reaction.

KweséESPN: Do you have a favorite defensive play?

Onwuasor: I'd probably say... I got the interception [against the Broncos] now so I want to catch more picks, but I'll probably say hitting. I like hard hits so I'd say a big hit is probably my favourite thing.

If the touchdown had stood on the interception, that would probably overrule all of them but I still like my hits though.

KweséESPN: Who are some of your favorite linebackers to watch?

Onwuasor: To be honest I really never watched the linebackers but I will say Ray Lewis. Just his vibe, his energy, his mindset, his physicality. His energy and his hits. I do like Deion Jones from the Falcons because we have the same body frame and I like the way he plays. Growing up I always looked at the quarterbacks, wide receivers and safeties because that's what I played.