All The Tools

Ohio safety Chris Rowell attracted more than two dozen scholarship offers to play college football on the strength of his fundamental skills, according to his coach, Delvin Culliver.

"He's by far the best player I've ever coached," Culliver said. "Chris has all the intangibles that a Division 1 school is looking for. He's a natural hitter. He hits with his head up, which is how you teach it. He just naturally does all the good things that coaches like to see. He rolls his hips and drives his feet on tackles. And, of course, he can run."

That last might be a bit of an understatement. Rowell, a star track performer for Warrensville Heights, runs "consistent 4.39s" according to Culliver. That combination of speed and excellent tackling technique allowed Rowell to pile up more than 100 stops on the season.

Culliver, like any smart coach, turned Rowell loose on his defense. From his strong safety spot, Rowell was often a blitzer, and the logic in using him instead of a linebacker for that task was simple.

"With Chris, there was probably a 90% chance he was going to get to the quarterback, where with another guy it might have been 70%," Culliver explained. "I didn't want to overuse him or burn him out, but he was the guy who was going to get there."

Completing the package is the fact that Rowell is a "tell him once and turn him loose" type of player that learns new things quickly, and is a student of the game.

"He's one of those players that you don't have to tell him a lot of things when he gets to the game. He picks things up quickly," Culliver said. "He doesn't take plays off. He plays hard entire game, and tries to get to the ball on every play. That's one of the things that attracts everyone.

"He's a football guy. He just loves the game. For example, when Chris watches the game on TV, he doesn't watch it for entertainment. He tries to learn something from it. He's watching his positions to see how they do on the field."

Those positions aren't just limited to the strong safety spot, however. Culliver notes that Rowell also keeps an eye on the linebacker positions, and as such could be well-suited to play West Virginia's hybrid/safety/backer positions.

"I think it's a no brainer that he could play spur or bandit at West Virginia," Culliver observed. "He's perfectly suited for those positions. This is how good I think he can be - one day I think he'll be a college all American."

Rowell might appear to be a bit small for those spots, as he currently checks in at six-feet one-inches tall and 180 pounds, but Culliver believes he has another growth spurt in him that will likely put him above the 200-pound mark. Part of that belief comes from the fact that Rowell's younger brother, Shawntell, is currently 6-4 and 225 lbs., and still growing. Shawntell, just a sophomore, "could be better than Chris" according to Culliver.

Topping off the package is the change of demeanor that Rowell undergoes when he steps on the field.

"When the game starts, he turns into a different type of kid," Culliver explained. "If you went to meet him on the street, he comes off as the Clark Kent type. You wouldn't guess he plays football. Only his letterman jacket gives him away. But when he gets on the field, he's just different. He's intense. He's not a rah-rah type, he just leads by example. When he tackles he tries to physically cause pain, but when game is over he turns it off."

Rowell, who had three interceptions, seven sacks and 17 tackles for loss during his senior season, stuck with WVU after the Mountaineers were one of the first teams to offer him a scholarship. Always a fan of the Big East, Rowell shared Culliver's opinion of WVU assistant Bruce Tall, who recruited him.

"Coach Tall was honest and straight with him. He's never led me astray, either," Culliver said. "When he went on the visit, he liked what he saw, and told me he liked the atmosphere of playing at WVU.

"West Virginia does a good job in the state of Ohio," Culliver summed up. "They start early and don't wait around. They evaluate kids quickly and then get after them hard."

That strategy paid off with Rowell, who has the potential to be one of the best Ohioans ever at West Virginia.

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