At Missouri's Pro Day, one player knew that he was in the underdog role as scouts took their places to observe and evaluate the group of players who would be running through drills for them. He wasn't the marquee player of the day. He wasn't even sure if he was on any of their draft boards.
But linebacker Derrick Ming was determined to make them notice him before the end of the workouts.
"In terms of effort, you could just see the determination in Ming's face," wrote St. Louis Dispatch writer Graham Watson in a post-Pro Day article. "He played the underdog role to perfection and excelled."
Ming acknowledged that he approached the day with a specific goal and attitude that he believed was essential to his potential future as an NFL player.
"My goal was to outperform everybody that was out there," he told ColtPower. "I have to have those kind of performances in order to be successful. I'm kind of performing with a chip on my shoulder right now.
"Every opportunity I get, I have to make the best of it. I've got to shine. There are so many people eligible for the draft this year, what's going to separate me from them? That's what I was thinking of during Pro Day."
Not only is Ming a versatile and athletic linebacker, he brings an intelligent and thoughtful approach to all that he does in life. A multiple-year honoree as an Academic All-Big 12 and a Scholar Athlete of the Year recipient at Missouri, he has an active interest in journalism even though he's currently working towards a master's degree in health education.
So we asked Derrick Ming if he could ask himself a single question as a journalist, what would it be?
"I guess it would be, ‘How did you handle the transition from high school to college and not playing the first three years of college? How did you handle that and persevere through all of that?' "
And his answer to his own question reveals a great trait about this young man that should be music to the ears of NFL coaches who at times have to deal with brash, immature personalities.
"It was a learning process and it was a maturity process," he explained. "I was expecting to come into college and become a starter and take over. But soon I realized that everybody in college had the same or even better potential than I had.
"So I had to actually start listening to the coach and mature a little bit. And with the help of my coaches and my teammates, I was able to do that. And I wanted it. I wanted it a lot my senior year -- and I chased after it and I got it done."
Ming knows first-hand the importance of working hard to earn his opportunity. Despite his obvious talent and enthusiasm on the field, he didn't move into the starter's role until his senior year. During his junior year, he was one step away on the depth chart as the backup to the university's all-time leading tackler, James Kinney. But instead of grumbling about the misfortune of playing behind a Missouri tackling icon, he used the experience to his advantage so that he'd be even more ready when it became his time.
"I pretty much learned the intensity, how to play the game, and how to be patient from him," he said. "Also, I'd be wrong if I leave out Sean Doyle, because he's the guy I also learned from who wasn't really big or that fast -- but got to the ball a lot. Those two guys taught me the physical nature of the game, how to handle coaching, how to keep your cool -- things that really helped me out my senior year."
Ming was a team captain that year, a tribute to his lead-by-example style. A disciplined worker on the practice field, Ming displayed a quiet leadership that garnered a lot of attention from his teammates when he did speak up.
"When something really needed to be said, I said it," he explained. "I didn't just say stuff to pump guys up."
At the pro level, Ming brings a versatility that should make him very attractive to NFL scouts. He can play inside or outside linebacker, has great depth and experience on special teams, and – as a former running back in high school – can even play fullback if called upon to do so. After his regular drills and linebacker workouts at his recent Pro Day, Ming was asked by a scout from the Bears to run through some drills at the fullback position.
"I've got quickness and speed, so I could attack the passer from the outside," he said. "But I could also play inside linebacker. I've got the right physical size for avoiding linemen so I can get low in there on the tailbacks or fullbacks."
With four years of special teams work, Ming believes he could make an immediate contribution in that area at the pro level because of his approach to the game of football.
"If you're out on the field, you've got to go a hundred percent all the time and give your best," he said. "Whether I'm playing special teams or linebacker, there's no difference in intensity."
At this point, Ming knows he's on the bubble between being a late-round pick or an undrafted free agent. And while his first Pro Day workout results certainly made an impression, scouts return to Missouri on April 4th for another look.
And make no mistake about it. Derrick Ming will be ready to make an even bolder statement by then. This "underdog" is on the rise.
Ed Thompson is the publisher of ColtPower.com on the Scout.com network.
Cardinals Draft Prospect: LB Derrick Ming
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