The Falcons were set to meet with Houston defensive tackle Ed Oliver at the NFL scouting combine Saturday.
The colorful Oliver plans to regale them with stories about his four horses.
The Falcons hold the 14th pick in the draft, which his set for April 25-27 in Nashville, Tenn. Oliver is projected to the Falcons in ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper’s latest mock draft.
“Ed’s a guy who is very talented, of course,” Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff said. “He’s athletic, can get up, disrupt, he can rush, he can also play the run. He’s going to have a lot of eyes on him, I’m sure, at a really attractive spot in the draft.”
For Oliver, football and horses work well together.
“Just as a young guy, one day I seen somebody riding a horse down the street and I said ‘Daddy, I want a horse,’ ” Oliver said. “Him growing up in the country, horses (were not ) foreign to him. About a month passed, and I had a horse. My first horse was named Caledonia.”
Oliver has been riding horses since he was 8 years old.
“I loved that horse,” Oliver said. “He got me another horse named Oreo. I got into riding Oreo, and I swear that horse tried to kill me a couple of times.”
Those battles with Oreo eventually extended to the football field.
“Fighting with that horse is really the reason why I became fearless and have been able to go up against 6-foot-5 and 300-pound guys,” Oliver said. “It’s like a walk in the park after you’ve had to fight with a 1,000-pound animal. I ain’t worrying about no 300 pounds.”
Oliver doesn’t have Oreo any longer, but he still has Caledonia. He remembers his battles with Oreo fondly.
“That horse was stubborn and ignorant,” Oliver said. “But I loved that horse to death. It was just the thrill of getting on him and working with him. He’d help me with my patience. He honestly stripped me of fear.”
Once he’s drafted, Oliver plans on getting a big barn for his horses.
“That’s the first thing I’m looking into,” Oliver said. “ I don’t think I’ll get into horse racing or nothing like that. I will have a barn with some horses in there, some stock and maybe some cows.
“I’ve never been a cow guy, but they’ve got bulls that you can sell their semen and make a lot of money like that. Get you a Wagyu bull and make you a little money.”
Some teams have asked Oliver to workout at linebacker.
“I would ask myself to play linebacker, too,” Oliver said. “I’m a very athletic tackle. You never now. I might end up playing linebacker one day. I’m not (going to) object to it.
“I feel like I’m a (defensive) lineman. I’m a three (technique). But if they if they pay me to play linebacker, guess what I’ll be doing? I’ll be playing linebacker.”
Once Oliver gets done talking about his horses with the Falcons, he’ll have to explain that ugly episode from last season when he got into an argument with then-Houston coach Major Applewhite over a team specialty jacket.
“We hashed it out a day later,” Oliver said. “Nothing became of it. I keep in touch with coach Applewhite still until today. He was my head coach.”
Oliver, a 5-star recruit who picked Houston over Alabama, is listed at 6-foot-2 and 287 pounds. He uses his speed and quickness to his advantage.
Houston played him at nose tackle over the center, where he was constantly double-teamed and sometimes triple-teamed.
“He is so dynamic and is so explosive,” NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah said. “It’s frustrating to watch him because they play him a lot head up over the center, and you talk to some (defensive) line coaches, when you have an athlete like that, they say, why would you line him up blocked?”
In the NFL, Oliver will get a chance to slash into gaps.
“Let him get in a gap and let him get upfield where he can use that quickness and really be disruptive,” Jeremiah said. “I think he’ll benefit kind of from a move. … Park him in there and let him go.”
Oliver has a favorite NFL player.
“I would have to say (Rams defensive tackle) Aaron Donald just because of his stature and his style of play,” Oliver said. “It’s truly amazing to see what he’s done at his size. I feel like I can come in and do the same thing, if not better.”
In addition to his meeting with the Falcons, Oliver has met with the Giants, Dolphins and Bills.
“Of this whole class of (defensive) lineman, I feel like I’m one of the best,” Oliver said.