Applewhite finds ideal situation in San Diego

After Antwan Applewhite failed to hear his name called during the 2007 NFL draft, he and his agents quickly began surveying his options. It didn't take long before Applewhite realized that the best place to go was nowhere at all. Instead, he will stay in the city where he played his college ball and compete for a spot as a reserve outside linebacker with the Chargers.

Antwan Applewhite (6-foot-3, 250 lbs.) spent his collegiate career as a defensive end at San Diego State. He played three seasons as an Aztec, posting 125 tackles, 16 sacks and 21½ tackles for a loss.

His quickness and natural pass-rushing abilities made him one of the most popular players in the undrafted free agent pool. The New York Giants, New York Jets, Cincinnati Bengals and Dallas Cowboys all tried to sign him, but the Chargers were his most aggressive pursuers and came up with an offer he couldn't refuse.

"San Diego called me before the draft and brought me in for a private visit. They were the only team to do that," Applewhite said. "After the draft, the Chargers' whole staff called me up and said they wanted to bring me in. Usually it's just one coach that calls. For the Chargers to have everybody call like that, it made me feel like I was drafted by them."

There were several factors that went into Applewhite's decision. For one thing, picking the Chargers allowed him to stay in the city he had grown to love. For another, he is friends with Kassim Osgood, a fellow Aztec who signed with the Chargers as an undrafted free agent in 2003 and was named to his first Pro Bowl in 2006.

But more than anything else, Applewhite saw an opportunity to stick in San Diego.

"(Me and my agents) noticed the Chargers were a little thin at outside linebacker behind the two starters," Applewhite said. "Also, we talked a little bit about the team having a history of giving undrafted free agents a chance to compete."

Before Applewhite can truly compete, he will have to learn his new position. After playing defensive end in college, he is transitioning to outside linebacker.

"It's a challenge," Applewhite said. "I have to learn a whole new scheme and get used to playing in space. That's the hardest part, dropping back and covering people downfield."

Applewhite has never been one to back down from a challenge. That's a good thing, because winning a spot on the Chargers' loaded roster will be harder than digesting week-old bean dip.

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