Westerman eager display his talents in Tempe
From the feast of being rated the nation’s top offensive guard prospect in the 2011 class to the famine of participating in only three games at two schools through three years of college eligibility, the redshirt junior can now finally belly up to the table to live up to his five-star billing from his sensational career at Chandler’s Hamilton High School. Westerman, the nation’s No. 17 overall recruit according to Scout.com as a senior, initially signed with Auburn in February 2011, a month after the Tigers claimed the BCS National Championship under Gene Chizik with Cam Newton at the helm. After redshirting in 2011, Westerman was limited due to injuries and saw action in only two games with one start in 2012. Following that 3-9 season for Auburn, Chizik was fired and the Tigers’ tailspin continued as the program was the center of investigation by the NCAA due to suspicion of rules violations. Amid the dramatic shifts at Auburn, Westerman opted to return home to Arizona in the spring of 2013, largely due to the new influence shown by Todd Graham in his first year at the helm for the Sun Devils. In Graham, Westerman saw and continues to see a selfless team leader with a contagious will for success. “I just love his discipline standpoint, how much he puts in the program and how badly he wants to win,” said Westerman of Graham. “He doesn’t care about his own accolades; he cares about the team’s accolades.” Due to NCAA transfer policy, Westerman was required to sit out the 2013 season for the Sun Devils, essentially forfeiting a season of playing eligibility. Frustrating as it was to have to simply observe his teammates steamroll to a 10-win regular season and division title, Westerman knew the time needed to be spent wisely for his future benefit. “It was tough because I did literally everything with the team beside play on Saturdays,” recalled Westerman. “That’s what you work for [to play on Saturdays], but at the same time I got an entire year to learn the playbook, to improve my techniques, to really improve my game and that’s what I did all year. I was in the weight room, I was watching film, I was studying the entire playbook, and I learned the entire offense so now I’m ready to go.” In a unique turn of fate, Westerman was able to see some playing time in 2013 as he was declared eligible to play in the National University Holiday Bowl against Texas Tech. Though he only saw a handful of snaps on special teams, the opportunity and the gesture resonated strongly with Westerman. “It was awesome [to play in the Holiday Bowl]. I was really happy that the coaches did that for me,” recalled Westerman. “It was a hard time not playing and even though I played a small role, even though the coaches might not know it, it was a really big thing to me.” Now that the 2014 season is immediately on the horizon for the Sun Devils, Westerman can finally turn the page of his football career that included only one start since the end of his high school days to a chapter that has him expected to be a stalwart of an Arizona State line poised to be one of the best the program has produced in years. Additionally, Westerman, an athlete defined by his toughness and power, understands and is motivated by the urgent fact that 2014 is the first of his final two seasons of playing eligibility, making this a crucial year for both the former blue chip recruit as well as his other high-potential colleagues along the line. “We try to stay away from the hype that so we don’t get too big-headed, but the sky’s the limit for this offensive line,” said Westerman. “I think across the line we’re strong, athletic. The sky’s the limit for us and we just have to go out and prove that on the field. Personally, I know I have to perform at a high level because this is one of only two years I have left.” Between games against fast-paced Pac-12 opponents and the physical line play of the likes of Stanford and Notre Dame, the Sun Devil blockers will need to be prepared with both strength and savvy – traits that Westerman, arguably the team’s strongest player, believes the Devils are primed to provide. “That’s what we’re built for; we’re built for physicality,” stated Westerman. “Our starting offensive linemen weigh 300-pounds across the board, all have at least a 405-pound bench press across the board and almost 600-pound squat across the board, so we’re physically ready for that and mentally we’re ready for that as well.” Ultimately, though many outside the program expect some measure of regression from the 2013 season – exemplified by the Pac-12 Conference media’s vote for the Sun Devils to finish third in the South division –Westerman, a three-time state champion at Hamilton High, sees nothing but progress for the Sun Devils in 2014. Beyond that, as Westerman believes, the pieces will fall into place in terms of fulfilling the high expectations that have followed him from Hamilton to Auburn back to Arizona State. “This team is a team full of winners. We want to win games, not go 8-5, that’s not a good season,” said Westerman. “For me losing one game is not a good season. I hate to lose anything; I just want to win a championship with this team. All the other accolades come with that.”
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