Former Missouri left tackle Justin Britt lived a nomadic early life as part of an Army family, so he has no real allegiance to any particular team.
Britt was born in Kentucky at Fort Campbell, but he also lived in Alaska and Kansas — when his father, Chris, was stationed at Fort Riley — before settling in Lebanon, Mo., during elementary school when his father transferred to Fort Leonard Wood and eventually retired.
“I didn’t have a favorite team,” Britt said. “I had favorite players. My dad was a big Steve Young/Joe Montana/Jerry Rice fan and my favorite player as a kid was Jerry Rice. As a kid, I had a 49ers Jerry Rice jersey and when he went to Oakland, I had a Raiders Jerry Rice jersey.”
Britt’s personal story might not be as gut-wrenching as the incredibly tough circumstances L’Damian Washington faced in Shreveport, La., or as heart-warming as Henry Josey’s recovery from a brutal knee injury.
But Britt, who battled back from his own ACL surgery, is playing for more than himself, too. He has a fiancée, Alicia, and a 1-year-old daughter, Navy Noelle, to think about.
“I don’t have the same story as L’Damian,” Britt said. “Our books are different, but Alicia and Navy definitely play a big part for me, because it’s not just about me. It’s also for them. I need to make sure I do everything I can and do everything right for them.”
Britt chatted with The Starabout his family and other topics during the months-long process leading up to the NFL Draft:
Q: Has it hit you it’s draft week yet?
: “It has being back home and getting all the questions from people who don’t really know what’s going on. If I wasn’t aware that this is the week, they’ve definitely made me aware. I’m feeling pretty mellow. I went fishing (Tuesday night) and am trying to relax and not think about it until it’s here. I haven’t been fishing in about two years, so that relaxed me and helped a lot.”
Q: With the draft spread over three days, does that ramp up the anxiety?
: “Of course, I’m hoping for Thursday. That would be a good thing, but I don’t know how I feel. I was talking to some sixth-graders today and was talking about not knowing how my life would turn out when I was their age. I had dreams and things I could reach for. One of them was to be drafted and play in the NFL. The key word there is ‘being drafted.’ I didn’t grow up saying I want to be an undrafted free agent. I grew up saying I wanted to be drafted. Just to hear your name called on TV, it would be amazing and it’s something that can never be taken away.”
Q: Would it be crushing if you aren’t drafted?
: “I’m confident that I could go undrafted, make the team and still contribute right away. But, again, I want to get drafted. Higher is nice, but as long as my name’s called.”
Q: What are you hearing from scouts about where you might go?
: “I’ve heard anything from second to fifth. Really, I’m kind of second to undrafted free agent.”
Q: What has life been like since the Cotton Bowl?
: “After the Cotton Bowl, I went and trained in Florida. L’Damian Washington came down and was my roommate, so it was nice to have somebody I knew down there. I worked out with (former South Carolina defensive end) Jadeveon Clowney. (Former Georgia quarterback) Aaron Murray was down there. Russell Bodine, the North Carolina center, was down there along with Eric Ebron, the North Carolina tight end. (Former Florida cornerback) Loucheiz Purifoy was down there along with all the guys my agent represents, so I made some contacts.
“I became close with some guys and built some relationships. It’s funny, because you wouldn’t think you’d build a relationship with the guy you’ve been blocking, like Clowney, but he’s a nice guy and we got along pretty well. That was a neat experience.”
Q: Has it been hard to be away from your fiancée, Alicia, and your daughter, Navy?
: “They came down (to Florida) once or twice. We got to hang out, so that was relaxing. It’s also a nervous kind of deal, because every day you get closer to a big job interview at the Combine. It’s funny how all that works. They really put you to the test there mentally and physically. They’re investing a lot in you and want to see how you respond at stressful times. But I think I did well there. It was a fun experience, and I really enjoyed it.”
Q: Were you happy with your performance at Missouri’s Pro Day?
: “When Pro Day came around, I did exceptional — better than the Combine. I’m not saying the Combine was bad at all, but I just did better and PR’d on stuff that I hadn’t PR’d on for three years. It was a good day for me. I talked to some teams there and they really liked what I did and what they saw.
“After that, a team worked me out — and I’ve gone this long without saying who — but I also visited four more teams. I also talked to every team at the (NFL) Combine — sat down with them and talked football, Mizzou football, their offense. I had a formal interview with Dallas and Oakland at the Combine, too.”
Q: Any team impress you the most?
: “I just want to play, so I like wherever my future takes me. I like them all. I can’t pick one. It’s everything I want from the West Coast to the East Coast.”
Q: Missouri has had a few players drafted in recent seasons, but how rewarding and how much fun has this process been with so many guys off that 12-2 squad that won the SEC East division staring down a pro career?
Britt: “It definitely makes everything easier to have your brothers with you. It definitely makes it easier to sit down and talk to L’Damian, sit down and talk to Henry or (defensive end) Michael (Sam), (fullback) Max (Copeland) , (defensive end) Kony (Ealy) — all of them — (quarterback) James (Franklin), (cornerback) E.J. (Gaines), (linebacker) Andrew (Wilson). There are so many of us who have potential. That really reflects on our season. Not many guys had that chance last year, but it seems like the whole team is going through this right now. We were blessed to have the season we had and go out the way we did. It definitely elevated our prestige and boosted all of us up.”