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"Cali Chris" Rumph II Eyes Big Goals in 2022
The outside linebacker looks back on his rookie season, what he wants to improve on this year, and oh yeah, what it’s like being on the sideline watching Justin Herbert take the field.
By Hayley Elwood Jan 26, 2022

Last May, I happened to be on a flight from Houston after shooting a feature with Rashawn Slater.

Lo and behold, another new draft pick of the Chargers happened to be on that same flight.

Chris Rumph II.

He was heading to rookie minicamp and after catching up with him while waiting for our luggage, his excitement was palpable. He was in awe of the weather and told me it was his first time stepping foot in California.

With his rookie season now in the books, I figured it was a good time to catch up with Rumph II aka 'Cali Chris,' so here's more from the outside linebacker on his first pro year, what he wants to improve on in 2022, and oh yeah, what it's like being on the sideline watching Justin Herbert take the field.

You and I met on a random flight from Houston after you were drafted. We're talking in baggage claim, and you told me you had never been to California. Now that you've been here for a season, what do you think?

Chris Rumph II: I love it! I get my hair twisted, and when I get it twisted, I call it, 'Cali Chris.' So far, I love it. It's expensive! But other than that, the sun's great, the weather's great, the people are such a vibe. I'm just loving it all.

Rookie season now in the books, how'd it go for you?

Rumph II: Rookie season had a lot of ups and downs. I think it was more of just learning how the NFL works. I think I learned a lot this year. Me knowing my capabilities, I've taken time to look back and learn all the difficult things you have to go through as a rookie and transition through in order to be a high-level player like I know I'm capable of. I think it was really just educational and me just trying to get comfortable which I accomplished. I've got a lot of big goals on my plate for next season which I want to accomplish.

What maybe was the most challenging thing about getting used to playing in the league?

Rumph II: The most challenging part was having to be an elite player every day. Coming in and watching film, having to be at that top notch 24/7. I think that was the biggest thing for me, especially coming out of college, where some games you'd maybe not need to put in as much film work. But every week [in the NFL,] you compete against the best and you have to bring it.

Your dad is a coach, did he give you any advice heading into the season and would you rely on him through the ups and downs?

Rumph II: He was trying to make sure I was playing my game, in my playbook and making sure I knew what I was doing out there. That's a big thing in the NFL, having the coaches being able to trust you. Those little tips helped me throughout the season just to stay on a steady path and not get frustrated or get on a tangent here or there. So just trust the process.

What guys did you turn to for guidance? Maybe guys in your room or just on the defense?

Rumph II: The guys in my room, E [Emeke Egbule,] Uchenna [Nwosu,] Joey [Bosa,] Kyler [Fackrell] – those guys were all great for me all year just bringing me in and making me feel I was at home with a family. Other than that, I would definitely say Linval Joseph was definitely somebody who helped me because he just gave me so much wisdom. Him and Chris Harris Jr. Those are my two OGs. They gave me so much wisdom, I can't even tell you about the amount of stuff they gave me. But those two guys.

How helpful is it to have those vested veterans who have seen a lot and been through a lot help you as you came to the NFL?

Rumph II: Having those type of guys, you can ask them anything because they've gone through everything you've experienced as a rookie and so on. Any situation that comes up, whether it's football or off the field related, being able to go to those guys knowing they have a good insight on the path I should take or direction I should go was helpful.

A lot of guys on the defense talked about Brandon Staley's scheme being 'complex.' What was it like learning that and how much more comfortable will you be in year two?

Rumph II: I would definitely say it was complex, but I enjoyed learning the defense, honestly. As a football player, I think I have a high IQ, so I love being challenged mentally when it comes to football, knowing why we're calling this in this situation and what works best for different personnel. So jut the ability to grow my knowledge of football through his system, that was fun.

You're a Duke guy, you've gotta have a high IQ.

Rumph II: That's what they always tell me! So I try to maintain that façade here and there.

How did your first sack feel?

Rumph II: Like a weight off my shoulders! I was trying to get one all season and finally it came against Cincinnati. That's one of those feelings you never forget, especially, getting it in the NFL. There's no "next level" to this, so being able to have that accomplishment under my belt allowed me to play free. Now that I got that out the way, I can show out for TFLs and continue to raise the bar for myself.

Favorite game in 2021?

Rumph II: Definitely the Cincinnati game. Being on the road after a hard loss knowing we had to win that game. Special teams was going, we kicked off, and we kept it going the whole game. We partied on the bus after!

I think it's interesting when you talked about the sack and you said you felt like a weight was lifted off. Is that something you guys as young players deal with? Where you want to hit milestones but when you don't, you can get down on yourself?

Rumph II: I'd say yes and no. I'm not chasing stats, I'm there to do my job. But at the same time, you know they drafted you to get sacks and get pressure on the quarterback. So when you finally get that first sack, you think, 'Okay, I got that out of the way. My feet are settled, and I can be me from now on.' It's a weight off your shoulders but in a form of getting something knocked off the board.

What's it like standing on the sidelines when Justin Herbert takes the field with the offense?

Rumph II: Oh man! You know something's about to happen! Justin is a once-in-a-generation quarterback. I just love watching the ball fly 50 yards and drop in the bucket to one of the receivers he's throwing to for a touchdown. Knowing he has that ability every time he goes out to the field, as a defensive player, it gives you a lot more confidence just knowing if we stop these guys three times in a row, the game's over 'cause we can score 21-straight.

You putting him in right now?

Rumph II: Go ahead and put him in. Everybody sees it!

Looking back to that plane ride in May, what's something you would tell that Chris back then that you know now about life in the NFL?

Rumph II: That's a good question, but I'd say to relax. After going through a season, I know I can play in this league. I'd tell myself to relax and head into training camp playing my game first before you truly get wrapped into the playbook and stuff.

Lastly, you mentioned you have big goals for yourself. What's something you want to accomplish or improve on in year two?

Rumph II: Like coach Staley says, being a complete player. Not only stopping the run, but being able to rush the passer at an elite level - not just a great level. Be one of those guys at the top at the end of the season in sacks, TFLs, just getting back to that like I did in college and using everything I've learned from this season to help me play faster and better this upcoming season.

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