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Yahoo Sports’ Lead Draft Analyst Eric Edholm goes 1-on-1 with Oregon Left Tackle Penei Sewell thanks to USAA. The highest rated offensive lineman entering the 2021 NFL Draft describes his childhood in American Samoa, his decision to opt out of the 2020 NCAA season, and where he thinks he may go in the Draft. In advance of the NFL Draft, Penei Sewell partnered with USAA, Official NFL Salute to Service Partner, to offer fans an inside look at how his military-inspired-upbringing and his family’s history of military service have prepared him for success in life, on and off the football field. Click here to learn more about Sewell’s military background.
ERIC EDHOLM: Well, we are pleased to welcome to Yahoo Sports, Oregon left tackle Penei Sewell who is joining us thanks to USAA, and we're going to get to that in just a little bit. But first, Penei, I'd love to hear a little bit more about your background. I know you grew up in American Samoa and it sounds like things are maybe a little cramped there. I heard 12 of you living in a one bedroom apartment. How does that work exactly?
PENEI SEWELL: To be honest, I don't know. Looking back at that, I don't know how he made it work. Man, it was a simple lifestyle there. Didn't think I needed anything more than what I had, and what I had it was that one shack with a lot of family members around. And, yeah, playing outside was the main thing. All we had was outside and the nature around us. Electronics wasn't really a big thing. Football was also a way of life on the island, too. My dad was a coach. So, American Samoa is really home to me, close to my heart, and something that I'll never forget. And I always go back whenever I need a reminder of where I came from and how far I've come.
ERIC EDHOLM: And you seem like a mild-mannered guy talking to you here, and yet I've seen some of the pre-game videos, you're hyping up your teammates, you have that energy that's so easy to spot. Where does that come from and is there a little bit of a different side to you when the game is inching closer?
PENEI SEWELL: Yeah. So I'm a real passionate person, and on and off the field those passions look a little different. So off the field, I'm a real genuine, happy guy. I love to put a smile on everybody's faces, keep the energy high. But when I cross in between those lines, that passion turns into really rage, another type of violent intentions, and I come with that.
ERIC EDHOLM: As we get closer to the draft here, are you starting to get a feel for what specific teams might be hottest on your trail, which ones may not be as interested? Do you have a sense of the range you might go in this draft?
PENEI SEWELL: Not too much. I don't really like to think about that, just because, at the end of the day, I like to just control what I can control. Maybe from the five to, again, 10 range I'mma probably go because everybody knows quarterbacks is--
--number one. So just kind of just, at the end of day, just keep my head down and working, just happy to go wherever I go.
ERIC EDHOLM: Looking back, was opting out of the 2020 season the right decision for you? The draft this year-- you've talked to NFL teams, you've heard the feedback. Do you think you made the right call?
PENEI SEWELL: Yes. I'm confident to say I did because the lessons I've learned, the experiences I went through of opting out, and also being mature and growing into the man I am today in these past six months have been a lot. I've learned so much, not only from the football aspect, but to really be a professional about the sport outside of field.
ERIC EDHOLM: And Penei Sewell, you are joining us today thanks to the good folks at USAA. And not only do you come from a football family that has produced quite a bit of talent over the years, but also from a military background. How did that experience help prepare you at all for all your success to this point and everything down the line as we get closer to the NFL draft?
PENEI SEWELL: Yeah, so man, I'd like to thank USAA for the partnership and to really show people my military background, and the really military ties within my family. And to really show them the, really, values that has taught me and to really shape me into the man I am today. And showing me the video earlier posted today. My grandpas, my uncles, they've all been in the military, whether it was the Army, Navy, or the Marines.
So, just having them, really, with all that wisdom and then all that knowledge every chance I get because, at the end of the day, they're not really around because, obviously, they're out deployed and doing what they needed to do. So, every chance I get to really sit down with them, to have a conversation, it's a blessing. And I'm a sponge, I soak it all in, and just listen to what they have to say.
ERIC EDHOLM: Well, no doubt they are all so proud of you as you are of them. As you get closer to the draft, possible top 10 pick, Penei Sewell from Oregon. One of the best lineman in recent college football. Thank you so much for joining us today. I really appreciate it.
PENEI SEWELL: Thank you guys. Appreciate the time.