The strength of the 2011 draft class is said to be the defensive line by many draft experts. Many of the lineman met with reporters on Saturday including the sons of a pair of former NFL players. One of the defensive lineman still has memories of going against Jake Long while Long was at Michigan 3 years ago.
by Andy Kent
INDIANAPOLIS – In what was a true picture of contrast, some of the top defensive linemen at the Combine put on a show for the media this morning at the same time as the offensive linemen were putting on a show on the field.
Top prospects like Alabama’s Marcell Dareus, Ohio State’s Cam Heyward and Cal’s Cameron Jordan addressed their strengths and concerns heading into the draft. They also touched on their experiences in college and some of the other factors that have helped them prepare for this week, which in Heyward’s and Jordan’s case included being the sons of former NFL players, with Jordan’s father former Pro Bowl tight end Steve Jordan.
For Miami Dolphin fans, they will be interested to know that Heyward, whose father was former NFL running back Craig “Ironhead” Heyward, identified Jake Long as the toughest offensive linemen he ever faced. He was tasked with trying to get around the Pro Bowl left tackle as a freshman for the Buckeyes during Long’s senior year and described the 6-foot-7, 315-pounder as a “road grater.”
At 6-foot-5 and 294 pounds, Heyward is much bigger than his legendary father, who was 5-11 and 260 in his playing days. He joked that the one similar trait he does share with “Ironhead” is a big head but he doesn’t expect to ride his father’s coattails.
“I want to be in the NFL and he was there but I want to leave a legacy of my own,” Heyward said. “I don’t want to live in his shadow but he was a great player. He’s always in my heart and I appreciate everything that he’s done but I want to do everything by myself and I’m not asking anybody to give me a second look or anything just because my dad was Ironhead.”
Dareus is battling with Auburn’s Nick Fairley for the title of best defensive lineman in this draft class. He likes to compare his game to that of former Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Oakland Raiders defensive tackle Warren Sapp, who has gone on record as labeling Dareus the best three-technique lineman in the draft.
“Watching Warren Sapp made me want to play football,” said Dareus, who at 6-foot-3 and 319 pounds has the ideal build for either tackle or end. “I really got good at it when (the Bucs) won the Super Bowl (after the 2002 season). I was in middle school and I really look up to him as a person and a player and I like the fact that Warren Sapp thinks that highly of me and recognizes me as the best three-technique.”
In a moment of levity, when Dareus was asked to describe himself as a player he smiled and said without hesitation, “I would describe myself as a nice guy.” He was quick to point out that he always helps up every player he tackles and he likes to have fun on the field.
The fact that he grew up as the sixth of seven children in a single-family home after his father passed away when he was young is something Dareus attributes to his humility. He is the second youngest and learned early on about the importance of hard work. He also showed respect to Fairley and said he holds nothing against him but he did admit he feels he is the safest pick at the position because he can play in both a 3-4 and a 4-3.
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