Ambrose Keeps Striving

FAYETTEVILLE -- The same day the Southeastern Conference named him Defensive Lineman of the Week, Arkansas freshman Damario Ambrose visited Tracy Rocker's office. Every Monday, Ambrose meets with Arkansas' defensive line coach, and the recent award did nothing to change his attitude about their off-day get-togethers.

FAYETTEVILLE -- The same day the Southeastern Conference named him Defensive Lineman of the Week, Arkansas freshman Damario Ambrose visited Tracy Rocker's office. Every Monday, Ambrose meets with Arkansas' defensive line coach, and the recent award did nothing to change his attitude about their off-day get-togethers. As always, they analyzed tape, just the two of them. Rocker scrutinized Ambrose's every move. He constructively criticized. And the 6-foot-5, 250-pound defensive end soaked in every word.

Ambrose realizes he hasn't even scratched the surface of his potential.

"Sometimes, I just run places and I look at myself on film, and I'm thinking, 'What am I doing?'" Ambrose said Tuesday in the Broyles Athletic Center. "Coach Rocker will ask me what I'm doing, and I'm like, 'I don't even know what I'm doing.' I do some crazy stuff out there sometimes.

"That's why I want to learn so much. That's why I pay attention so hard."

Ambrose spoke with brutal honesty Tuesday in assessing his first month as a Razorback, one day after being honored for his eight-tackle effort in Arkansas' rout of North Texas. In his Sunday news conference, Arkansas coach Houston Nutt lauded Ambrose for his intense, consistent effort, but remarked that he showed a tendency to blow his assignments.

Ambrose couldn't argue with the viewpoint. He said he had "underachieved up until the (North Texas) game." He acknowledged his ongoing struggles with learning his duties in what is a foreign, complex defense to him. And he spoke about the difficulties of adjusting to the daily grind of college football, the difficult balance of school and football.

But all along, Ambrose has stayed motivated and encouraged by remembering one fact. He is, after all, still pretty new at this game. Ambrose didn't play organized football until his sophomore year at Davidson High in Mobile, Ala.

Before then, Ambrose wanted to be a baseball player. A pitcher, Ambrose threw around 80 miles per hour as a freshman.

"To be totally honest, I wish I could be playing football and baseball," Ambrose said.

But he tore the labrum in his throwing shoulder, and it never healed properly. He was soon on the football field, a raw, skinny defensive end with rare quickness for his size. He "wasn't afraid of contact" at first, but he did admit he was a little scared. Those feelings went away fast as Ambrose grew to love football.

"He would make people mad at practices," said Arkansas receiver London Crawford, Ambrose's teammate at Davidson High. "He loved to hit, and he was always going hard. The running backs were never too happy with him."

Arkansas' coaches loved his athleticism and recruited him well before Alabama and Auburn did. Ambrose wanted to play at Alabama "real bad, for a long time." But once he got to Arkansas, he said he immediately felt like family.

Players such as Marcus Harrison and Ernest Mitchell have been in mentor mode since he met them, Ambrose said. Mitchell said Ambrose, who just turned 18 and is the team's youngest player, has impressed teammates with his humble approach. That demeanor has helped Ambrose rise to second on the depth chart at left end behind sophomore Adrian Davis.

"First of all, he is so athletic," Mitchell said. "The first day of practice, I was pretty amazed. I just saw someone whose legs could go crazy. He's real flexible, and he's real quick. He just has a lot to learn.

"The biggest thing with him is, he wants to get better and he's not embarrassed to ask for help."

His Monday meetings are the evidence.



Damario Ambrose

Age: 18

Class: Freshman

Size: 6-foot-5, 250 pounds

Hometown: Mobile, Ala.

Noteable: Named the Southeastern Conference's Defensive Lineman of the Week after recording a career-best eight tackles in Arkansas' 66-7 win over North Texas. Four his team-high tying tackles were solo stops. He also tallied 1.5 tackles for loss, including one sack. ... Was a high school teammate of sophomore receiver London Crawford at Davidson High and pitched for the baseball team. ... Runs a 4.75 40-yard dash.

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