"I look for people on the field that are very violent people," safety's coach Bill Busch said of his main criteria when looking at the safety position. "You see it in their tackling. You see it in their running. You see their arms moving when they run. You see quick-sudden-violent movements and you see that at the point of attack also."
I am sure that you, like any football fan, knows just what the third year secondary coach is talking about. You see these kinds of hits all the time. But it isn't about someone that can execute one legal haymaker every now and then. It's someone that can do that all the time.
That's the main criteria for Bill Busch, and when he talks about Larry Asante in that context, he says this junior college terror is the real deal. "He was the only JC safety we targeted, period," Busch said. "He's the best safety in the country. At that spot, he was the best we evaluated. He was our guy."
What's interesting about how violent a player is on the field, it's usually not a part of a thought process going into the game, thinking about big hits, laying people out and knocking the living hell out of someone.
For Asante, it's just how he plays, because that's what safeties are supposed to do. "I look at guys like Brian Dawkins and Roy Williams, and that's how I think the position should be played," Asante said of the current Philadelphia Eagle and Dallas Cowboy, respectively. "It's just pure aggression out there, guys just unloading on someone."
Usually when you ask someone at the position to recall the best hits of their career, you'll see a smile first, recalling not just the hit, but how it felt the instant before it was delivered. Larry is the same way as he recalled what he said was the best hit of his entire life. "We were facing Blinn in the opening game of the season, and they had this freshman All-American running back (Bernard Scott) take a screen, and I was lined up in the slot," he said. "I saw it develop, got a good jump toward the line and I was just smiling."
"I knew I had him dead in my sights."
The hit actually garnered Asante an award at the end of the year, his hit tying for the "big hit" of the season. Ask this future Husker, though, he wants those kinds of hits all the time. "That's what you want to do every single play. You want the other team to know that they've played other teams, but they haven't played you, and we're a whole different deal."
"We're not out to end your career, but if we can take you out of the game, that's just what we are going to do."
Aggression is one thing, but again, like any football fan, you have seen these almost psychotic hitters deliver a few good hits, but whiff almost as much if not more. It's that all-or-nothing mentality, which could help your team, but could hurt them as well. Hitting, tackling and just executing the fundamentals seems almost a luxury to some, but it's that one hit, and not every hit they are looking to deliver.
Within the often times disorderly world of read-and-react play, Asante says that his emotion is always there, but his mind is on the actual play. "You have to go at things smart or you are just going to hurt your team," Asante said. "The big hit is great, but if you go for it, the guy jukes you and heads for a touchdown, that's on you. You took a chance you didn't need to take."
"I spend as much time reading what's happening and knowing my opponent. The aggression part is just instinct."
The new challenge for Asante, of course, is transferring that instinct and intelligence for the game up another level. The players he'll face will be bigger, faster and stronger than he's ever faced. He may have seen one really talented player during the course of a season in junior college, but now he's going to see them every week.
That might intimidate some, but Asante looks at that as a gift. "If you play nobody, you haven't proven anything to anyone, especially yourself. The only accomplishment comes from playing guys you have to be perfect against or you are going to lose," he said.
"Any real player who wants to get better, that's the kind of player they want to face. I am not going to learn anything going against guys I know I can beat. You get better facing guys that can beat you if you aren't at your best."
Larry sees the challenge of academics and relishes it. The junior college route can teach you just how important academics are. He sees the necessity to be organized in managing your time as a Division 1-A scholarship athlete more as an opportunity rather than an obstacle.
But then he looks at the football field, and thinks about the adversity ahead. That's when this sharp but violent football player knows he'll be in his element, and his job will be to take others out of theirs.
"I'm going to look at playing at Nebraska like have at playing anywhere else. When I get on the field it's personal," he said. "I want other teams to know and other players to know that they have faced other teams and other players. That was them, but they aren't us."
"And we're going to show you the difference."