Larry English (6-foot-2, 274 pounds) plays until the whistle, delivers crippling hits and sheds blocks with ease. He played in 47 of 50 games at Northern Illinois and received multiple All-Mid America Conference honors, including the MAC Defensive Player of the Year.
English was not the highest-rated pass rusher in this year's draft, coming in behind Brian Orakpo and Aaron Maybin. But even though English was ranked by Scout.com as the draft's No. 33 prospect, Newhouse feels San Diego got good value at No. 16.
OLB Larry English
"Larry English was underrated coming into the draft because he came from NIU and the MAC," Newhouse said. "If he had played in a power conference, I'm sure everyone would have had him projected to go in the middle of the first round. I'm sure the Chargers saw what we've seen in Larry over the last four years."
One thing that hurt English's stock was his history of injuries. He required surgery for an ACL tear in 2007, followed by a torn pectoral muscle in 2008. He also broke his hand in the fall of 2008 and played the majority of that season with pins in his hand, although he didn't miss a snap.
Newhouse believes English's ability to play through pain is a testament to his character and leadership.
"I think the ability to keep bouncing back from injury and playing through injuries really speaks to Larry's toughness," he said. "He's a team player who was always willing to make personal sacrifices and was concerned about what was best for the team."
English started his journey at NIU in 2005, when he began the season ranked fifth on the depth chart. He quickly rose through the ranks and started nine of 11 games that season. He proceeded to lead the team's linemen with 57 tackles and 1.5 sacks.
Newhouse feels English could make a similarly quick rise in the NFL.
"I'm sure Larry will be prepared for what he has to do to take his game to the next level. He's been in that role before. He has the work ethic to keep looking for improvement," Newhouse said.
English was among the premier pass rushers in college football, second only to Phillip Hunt of Houston. He was the nation's active career leader in sacks (31.5), sack yardage (220) and tackle-for-loss yards (283).
He is the two-time winner of the Vern Smith Leadership Award (2007 and 2008), given to the MAC's top defender. He is the first player to win the award twice.
"Obviously, Merriman is an All-Pro linebacker. Larry has a ways to go before he is at that level. Yet I'm confident that, given time, he can reach that level. He has the drive and the work ethic to get there," he said.
It remains to be seen what kind of impact English will make this season while playing behind Merriman and Phillips. But it's clear his presence in the locker room will be a welcome one.
Just like last year's first-round pick, CB Antoine Cason, English is known for his sparkling character.
"The thing that NIU coach Jerry Kill will miss most about not having Larry English this season is his leadership," Newhouse said. "Larry makes plays, he makes tackles and sacks, but the hardest thing to replace is the leadership he brings to the field."