Defensive tackle Jerry Tillery was at Hoag Performance Center, attending the press conferences of his second and third round draft pick teammates when the Los Angeles Chargers selected Drue Tranquill in the fourth round of the 2019 NFL Draft.
But as we now know, there was something extra exciting for Tillery about the Bolts adding Tranquill into the fold. He was getting the chance to reunite with his former Notre Dame teammate.
"Drue, he's a great player and even better person," Tillery explained. "He's one of the best teammates I've ever had. He's what you want from a teammate and someone you want to work with every day. He's the same guy every day."
Tranquill was a two-time captain at Notre Dame who played safety for three seasons before switching to linebacker during his senior year. Tillery had a front row seat to Tranquill's development as a player for the Fighting Irish and said his versatility will greatly benefit the Bolts.
"He can cover," he said of Tranquill. "He can fill the A-gap. He can do a lot for your team. He's versatile on special teams as well so I think he'll add a lot to the organization."
Ask Tranquill and he'll tell you how switching from safety to linebacker broadened his knowledge of the game. In 2018, he notched 75 tackles with nine tackles for loss, three pass breakups and 3.5 sacks.
"It gives me a (greater) understanding of the pass game," Tranquill said upon his first practice at Hoag Performance Center. "(It was greater) just in my understanding of zone drops. It's helped me a lot on my first day (of rookie minicamp) and I think it'll continue to help me as I evolve as a player."
But as Tillery was excited for joining the Chargers with defensive end Isaac Rochell already in the fold, he was just as thrilled to know he'd get to experience his rookie season alongside Tranquill. While punter Tyler Newsome is also part of the Fighting Irish rookie contingency, Tillery admits it's a benefit to have someone on the same side of the ball be able to go through their first season in the league together.
"To have someone (like Rochell) who's been here and been through what I'm going through is invaluable," Tillery reflected. "(But) having someone who is doing the same thing with me, who I already know previously, is the best of both worlds. It's really so amazing to have them as resources and people I can lean on. It's going to be great."
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