Steelers' second-round draft picks LaMarr Woodley has always had a linebacker's mentality. Now, he'll be playing the position as well
When LaMarr Woodley first stepped onto the football field at Saginaw High School in Michigan, head coach Don Durrett knew he had a special talent.
But when Durrett asked Woodley, just a freshman, what position he saw himself playing, Durrett got a surprising answer.
“I asked him what position he wanted to play and he said line,” Durrett told Yahoo.com. “I said 'You don't want to run the ball?' He said, 'Naw, I just want to block and hit somebody.' When a kid says that you know what kind of person he is. You know he's a team player and he's not into the glory of things in running and scoring touchdowns. I knew what kind of person he was. That was right away during his freshman year.”
Woodley has been hitting people with great regularity ever since.
The 2006 Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, Ted Hendricks Award winner as the nation’s best defensive end and Lombardi Award winner as the nation’s best lineman, Woodley is also one of the most decorated players to be selected by the <A HREF=http://steelers.Scout.com/>Pittsburgh Steelers</A> in the draft in some time.
But how does a player as talented as Woodley slip to the second round, where the Steelers make him the 46th player selected in this year’s draft?
“Everything happens for a reason. If that's what happened, that's what happened,” said Woodley. “I'm going to make the best of the opportunity that I have. I'm not going to complain about it. I'm going to go out here, and I'm going to compete every game like I would if I was a first-rounder.”
The biggest reason for Woodley to fall out of the first round was his size. At just under 6-2 and 266 pounds, Woodley wasn’t considered big enough to play defensive end in the NFL despite being one of the most productive players in this draft. But the Steelers felt Woodley could make the transition to outside linebacker in their defense, while initially contributing as a situational pass rusher.
They’ll initially line him up at left outside linebacker behind Clark Haggans.
“He'll take time with the transition, moving from defensive end to outside linebacker, but he has played outside linebacker before,” said Steelers linebackers coach Keith Butler. “Early in his career at Michigan he stood up. These last couple years he has played the defensive end position, but we feel good about it.”
Not only did Woodley play outside linebacker at Michigan, he starred at the position, being named to the All-Big Ten Conference team at that position in 2004, when he made 16 tackles for a loss and also recorded four sacks while playing right outside linebacker.
Because of that, Woodley didn’t shy away from working out as a linebacker at his pro day, something that convinced the Steelers he would be a perfect fit at the position in their 3-4 defense.
“My pro day at Michigan on March 16 was my time to shine – my last shot to show what I could bring to an NFL team,” Woodley told the Sporting News. “I was able to knock out most of the testing and my drills, and I was proud of the performances I put forward. I ran the 40 in 4.74 and 4.84, bench-pressed 225 pounds 29 times and had a 38 1/2-inch vertical jump. My other drills went similarly well. Hopefully, the 25 teams that attended were impressed enough by what they witnessed that day, as well as what they have seen on tape from Michigan, to use a high draft pick on me.”
The Steelers, who were in need of not only help at linebacker, but for an accomplished pass rusher as well, were that team.
Woodley is viewed as a player who is not only talented, but one who gives maximum effort at all times. It’s something he has done even since high school.
“Our left tackle was injured, and (LaMarr) replaced him in the state championship game as a freshman,” Durrett said. “We called a sweep and he had the key block. He hit the kid from Brother Rice and knocked him back five or 10 yards and it was the game-winning touchdown. We kept him at tackle and outside 'backer. That's all she wrote then. We let him do his thing and every game things happen.”
By Dale Lolley
Posted 2 May 2007