Getting to know: Parys Haralson

Parys Haralson's name has a certain "Paris Hilton" ring to it. So the 49ers' fifth-round selection in the recent NFL draft is ready for the question, one he has heard more than a few times on his steady climb to college football stardom: Where did he get the distinctive first name with the peculiar spelling?

"My mom, she took my name from some kind of television show or something like that," said one of the greatest sack artists in University of Tennessee history. "She heard it on the TV and she liked the name and she spelled it with a ‘y' instead of an ‘i' to make it natural."

Haralson is a natural, all right.

He wasn't the biggest or quickest defensive end in college football the past few years, but when all was said and done and the numbers were added up, Haralson was one of the best.

A two-time team captain, Haralson got on a first-name basis with opposing quarterbacks while leading Tennessee in sacks three consecutive years, finishing among the Southeastern Conference leaders during his junior and senior seasons.

He had a career-high 8.5 sacks last season, which ranked fourth in the SEC, and his 16.5 stops behind the line of scrimmage ranked third in the league. Haralson had seven sacks as a junior in 2004, when he also tied a single-season school record with 21 quarterback pressures.

What makes a guy Pro Football Weekly describes as "the meanest player on the line" go?

"It's my intensity and my motor," Haralson explains. "When I get out on the field, I'm always trying to make the play and I'm always prepared to make the play. Going hard every play, people may take it as mean when you're really just going hard. My motor is something that always keeps running. I don't give up. I fight until I get to the quarterback, and that's what I always do."

That's no exaggeration. Few players have gotten to the quarterback more frequently in the history of a school that has produced some the finest pass rushers ever to play the game.

With 21 career sacks, Haralson's name sits next to guys such as Reggie White and Leonard Little on Tennessee's career sacks list. White might be the greatest pass rusher in NFL history, and Little is one of the best in the game today.

Haralson – second in Tennessee history with 44 quarterback pressures and third with 46.5 stops for a loss – takes pride in that achievement. But he's out to make a name for himself with the 49ers.

"A lot of people compared me to Leonard when I came to Tennessee, but I wouldn't put my name in the same category," Haralson said. "But being compared to him is an achievement to me. I wasn't big enough to be compared to Reggie. But I played hard, and the way I played made me seem much bigger than what I was."

Size doesn't lie in the NFL, so the 49ers will convert the 6-foot-1 Haralson to outside linebacker in their 3-4 defensive scheme to make optimum use of skills.

"He's instinctive and he's got some pass rush abilities, but he's built more like a linebacker because he's got some thickness to him," 49ers vice president of player personnel Scot McCloughan said. "He has a lot of strength and power in his hands, and the thing that intrigued us so much is that you can put him at (linebacker) and put him over a tight end and let him use that strength in his hands and control that guy coming of the line of scrimmage."

In the 49ers' 3-4 defensive scheme, Haralson could have an opportunity to start right away if he can make a steady transition back to outside linebacker, where he was a two-time All-State star in high school.

"Parys has a chance to start with the position he plays," 49ers coach Mike Nolan said. "I think he can be (an impact player). When he played for us in the Senior Bowl, he did a nice job. He was another guy that was a team captain for two years and is a very assertive, take-control-of-the-situation type of guy. He was rushing the passer a lot on the left side, which is where he would be."

Haralson, who shared time with veteran holdover Corey Smith at the position during San Francisco's recent spring minicamp, is anxious for the opportunity.

"I was prepared to come here to play linebacker, and I feel like I can do that," Haralson said. "I'm going to have to do it now, so I just have to come in and prove it."

Part of his role – perhaps a major part as he gets accustomed to outside linebacker in the NFL – will be to hunt quarterbacks on passing downs.

"I'm predominantly a speed rusher, where I can use my quickness," Haralson said. "Some people think my height is probably a weakness, but it's something I can't do anything about, so I use it to my advantage for leverage and all types of things. Using my speed and quickness and just doing a bunch of things like that for the 49ers – I'm very excited about that. I feel like it's going to be a great thing to come in and play in the 3-4 and playing the outside backer, because I've worked on it some and I think I can play it."


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