Getty Images

O.J. Howard

O.J. Howard was far away from Philadelphia on Thursday night. He was actually pretty close to his future home of Tampa Bay. Picked 19th overall by the Buccaneers, Howard was in Prattville, Alabama, surrounded by friends and family, not a sea of Eagles fans.

ThePostGame got a chance to chat with Howard on the phone Thursday morning before his big night. Howard gave some insight into why he stayed home, why NFL teams are putting more value on tight ends in the draft and how Nick Saban helped his preparation.

ThePostGame: What went into your decision to stay home for the draft?
O.J. HOWARD: I'm big on family. I really thought that it was a good idea to stay back with family. Not many people could make it to Philly. You can only bring so many, but there are so many people I wanted involved for me. It's a big day for me. So I decided it was best to do it back home.

TPG: Let's say I am an NFL GM, why should I take a tight end in the first round?
HOWARD: The tight end position is a position that is very unique. You've got to do a lot of things on the field. You've got to pass protect, all the other things too. I think when you find a great tight end, a guy who can stretch the field, make plays in the passing game also in the running game, it's hard to pass up on that. I think GMs love to see that from a tight end.

TPG: When you were growing up, were you a lineman-turned-tight end or receiver-turned-tight end?
HOWARD: I was mostly a receiver. I didn't start playing tight end until my senior year of high school. Mostly I was a receiver before that, so when I became a tight end, I was really a receiver-tight end.

TPG: I was with Jonathan Allen, and I asked him a similar question, you're about to go to the NFL and get a nice paycheck, but when the national championship game ended, did it feel like the worst way to go out of your college career?
HOWARD: No, I wouldn't say the worst way. It was disappointing to lose that way, but I think our team played well. You leave it all on the field, you lose to a great team, you can't be upset about that. You just got to tip your hats off to them. It wasn't as bad as it may have seemed, but still disappointing.

TPG: In the draft process, did you train with any of the Clemson guys?
HOWARD: Absolutely. Mike Williams is one of my good friends. We train in Arizona. We talk every day. He's one of my good friends now. I've talked to a lot of those guys since then. No hard feelings.

TPG: Have they given you any trash talk?
HOWARD: No, they're actually cool guys. They don't even bring of the game at all. It's always me bringing it up or not at all. They won. You don't really want to talk about it too much if you win, but you always remember if you lose it because you want to talk about what if. But they're real class-act guys.

TPG: What is it about Nick Saban in terms of the draft preparation that makes him such a good coach?
HOWARD: Well, for us, he's gonna be there through the whole process. Even when you leave, he's going to talk to you about different tips when you meet with teams and pro day. He's there the whole draft process. He's encouraging you, giving you tips and pointers because he's been on the other side of the table asking players questions and stuff.

TPG: Did you have a team you grew up rooting for?
HOWARD: No, I never had one. I'm from Alabama, so we don't have a team here.

TPG: What's the best place to eat in Tuscaloosa?
HOWARD: I like going to [Bob's] Victory Grille because there's so many different options. You can get pizzas, you can get hoagies, steak, burgers, you can get anything you want.

TPG: Growing up, who was a tight end you admired?
HOWARD: Tony Gonzalez. Big fan of his. I looked up to him and he had a very successful career.

TPG: Who's a guy now you model your game after?
HOWARD: I'd say Greg Olsen is a guy I can relate to. He does a great job in the passing game, and he's a really good run blocker.

TPG: What is your idea of a successful NFL career for you?
HOWARD: Coming in and being a very good asset to whatever team takes me, being a leader, making plays, doing whatever it takes to be successful as a team. I'm big on that, and if you do that every year, being a good team player, being a leader, all that success will come.

TPG: Which former Alabama players have helped you out in this process?
HOWARD: I've been talking a lot to Derrick Henry and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. Those are two of the guys I've been working out with since the Pro Day was over with. They've been very helpful with the process.

Howard spoke to ThePostGame on behalf of Hyundai, one of his sponsors in advance of the NFL Draft. Hyundai traveled to Howard's hometown of Prattville, Alabama, to document his story from the perspective of family and friends.

-- Follow Jeff Eisenband on Twitter @JeffEisenband. Like Jeff Eisenband on Facebook.