For years, Jason Cabinda was the heartbeat of Penn State’s defense. Now, he’s out to prove he can be the same for an NFL front-seven.
Cabinda — who finished his career ninth on Penn State’s all-time tackles chart — is a projected Day 3 selection for the NFL Draft but is looking to boost his draft stock. After showing out at the East-West Shrine Game, the middle linebacker will be at next weekend’s NFL Combine in Indianapolis with seven of his former Penn State teammates.
Cabinda joined us for “5 Questions,” discussing everything from the Combine to Penn State’s 2018 linebacker situation to Marvel’s hit movie, “Black Panther.”
Q: You’ve been down at Exos in Florida training since the end of the season. What has your experience been like being down there, what have you been doing on a daily basis, and how jealous do you think people in State College are of the weather you’re enjoying?
A: (laughs) It’s going really well, man. It’s been a really good experience so far. They’re treating me well down here. We’re getting our bodies right from a nutritional, physical and mental aspect, in all ways. Position drills, lifting, getting more explosive, running and getting faster, technique. It’s all those things. Everything’s really broken down here in terms of getting better in each phase. And obviously the weather is great. I’d much, much rather be here than in State College with the snow and all that. I’m really enjoying myself down here. I’m getting better and getting ready for the Combine.
Q: You mentioned the NFL Combine. You’ll be there next weekend. What are you looking to prove to those scouts, coaches and executives?
A: To me, the biggest question a lot of these scouts are asking themselves is, how athletic am I? It’s going to be about running fast, jumping far, jumping high, all those things. Showing them that I move fluidly, I’m smooth in the way I move, I transition well in position drills, and in the 40 and those things, I’m running fast. Coming in that low 4.6 (-second) range and proving I can move well. That’s going to be the biggest thing for me. That’s the biggest question I have to answer at the Combine and on (Penn State’s) Pro Day on March 20.
Q: At the Combine — like guys before you and along with former teammates — you’ll be doing Reps for Rare Diseases on the bench press. How much does Uplifting Athletes mean to you, as well as the opportunity to raise awareness for rare diseases?
A: It’s awesome. As soon as I had the opportunity to join Uplifting Athletes and be able to campaign for them, it’s been an incredible opportunity. I’ve met a lot of cool people and heard a lot of cool stories of people who really don’t have a voice. There aren’t many people who are willing to invest in diseases that one in a million people may have. You know what I mean? Not a lot of people want to put the money and funding into research for it. So to be able to have the opportunity to go raise money for those people and to raise money to go into the research and treatments that these people need and give these people a voice, it’s amazing. I’m really excited for that. I’m hoping to reach my goal of $5,000 at the Combine. Right now, I’m hoping for a minimum of 20 reps. I’d love to hit 25 for sure, but to be in that range would be awesome.
Q: Looking ahead to 2018 for Penn State, without you in the middle, someone’s going to have to step up. Ellis Brooks is there, and looks like Micah Parsons will begin his career at the Mike linebacker position. Any thoughts on the role you left behind?
A: To me, the role I had, and the way I prepared week in and week out, I think they really picked up on that. The way I watched film, and the way I practiced. That’s going to be beneficial to them moving forward. As of right now, it’s about who’s going to step up and who’s going to make plays. At the end of the day, you can talk the talk, you can learn the system, but you’ve got to go out there and produce. That’s the question that’ll be answered this spring hopefully. They’re going to put Micah Parsons out there in spring ball to see how he does, and I think Ellis Brooks is a great candidate there. And you know, a sleeper to me is Jan Johnson. He’s a guy who played in a game against Michigan and has taken meaningful snaps and a guy who just has a nose for the ball and can really go out there and make plays. I’m excited to see those guys develop and how their roles continue. The slack is going to be picked by the other positions, as well. Koa (Farmer) is going to continue into his role and really, I think, dominate this season at that Sam position. I’m really excited for Cam Brown, as well. I think there’s a lot of exciting things about that linebacker crew.
Q: We’ll wrap it up here with something non-sports, something fun. ‘Black Panther’ came out this past weekend and got a lot of great reviews. I saw you’ve been tweeting about it. Without any spoilers for people who haven’t seen it, what were your thoughts on the movie?
A: Man, that movie was absolutely insane. It was so good. For me, that movie was top-five all-time and top-two Marvel movies, I would say. Just because I’m big on Wolverine, so ‘Logan’ stands as my No. 1. But shoot, ‘Black Panther’ is right up there, right next to it. I would encourage absolutely everybody to go see that movie because from the production, graphics, everything about it, the plot, it was good. It was dope.