Sports Out West

D.J. Fluker credits SEC football for preparing him for NFL rigors

Photo Credit: Eldrick Bone / Sports Out West

Here on the West Coast, we often get sick of hearing just how dominant the level of football back East is. If you’re like me and have good friends who attended SEC schools, then you know that they never cease to remind all of us how they set the standard when it comes to college football and are effectively the minor leagues of the NFL. 

Chargers’ rookie offensive lineman D.J. Fluker is one such person, but he has a different perspective than just anyone from the Southeast as an NFL rookie who just completed his second day of training camp. Playing at such a high level collegiately at the Alabama has helped him pick up both the speed and the intricacies of the pro game without skipping a beat. 

“The best thing I did was play at an SEC school,” the Bolts’ 2013 first-round draft pick told Sports Out West after practice on Friday. “It gave me a little bit of an advantage as far as game speed. Luckily at Alabama we ran a pro-style offense. That gave me a better opportunity for being on the Chargers because they kind of run that same system.” 

But all that preparedness doesn’t mean Fluker is anywhere close to where he needs to be in terms of being game-ready. He understands that more than anyone, and is working to correct all of the little things that tend to expose youth — doing everything from watching film to taking up martial arts in order to work on his hand speed.

One thing he understood early on in practice was that the fine details in the NFL matter. 

“Here, you have to be more fundamentally sound,” he said when asked what the biggest different between the pro and college game was. “It’s more like you’re wearing pajamas right now. It’s more of a teaching thing and more of a mental aspect.”

“In his mind, he thinks the SEC has the same athletes that the NFL has, said safety Darrell Stuckey. “But he’s getting well-adjusted to the players that we have, and we have some outside rushers that he can go against on a day-to-day basis.” 

Veterans like Stuckey know that it takes more than high-level reps in college to adjust, but Fluker is humble and ready to earn the respect of his teammates. Still, he won’t hesitate to remind them which conference sends more players to the league on a regular basis. 

“Everybody in the SEC’s playing on Sundays. You can tell that from the draft,” he pointed out. 

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Michael C. Jones is the managing editor and founder of Sports Out West and a Southern California-based sports journalist. His work is also regularly featured on Yahoo! Sports and SB Nation. You can catch up with him on Twitter: @MikeJonesTweets.