Finding players who have already played in the 3-4 defense at the collegiate level can be a daunting task.
Not many teams play the scheme and the ones who do often play some hybrid version of it.
In building a championship team it is essential to not only have playmakers and elite talent but a team must also possess players who love the game. Getting both in one shot is considered a coup and one NFL Draft prospect, in particular, fits the bill.
While most players are focusing on the workout numbers, Darryl Blackstock went to the Combines with the intent of showing them his passion. He was confident that his skills on the field would translate well into solid workouts. He felt it was important to show his hustle in every event and take that off the field into the interview sessions.
"I just wanted them to know that more than anything, besides the tape and stuff, I wanted them to know that I have a real love for the game, a passion for the game," Blackstock said. "That's really my motivation to do well."
While some prospects drive consists of money and fame or simply elevating stock, Blackstock's love for the game and desire to make his son proud were driving forces behind him leaving school early.
"I just want to be great, to play against the best," he said. "I know I can master the challenge."
A former defensive end in high school, Blackstock made the tranisition to outside linebacker as a freshman at Virginia. That move immediately paid dividends as he went on to set a new ACC record for most sacks by a freshman with ten.
He finished his collegiate career second in Virginia annals with 27 sacks and third with 45 tackles for a loss. Despite leaving school early, Blackstock ended his career half a sack behind former Georgia Tech star Marco Coleman for the most career sacks by a linebacker in ACC history.
Nineteen percent of his career tackles have occurred behind the line of scrimmage.
"I'm a big play kind of player," Blackstock proudly proclaimed. "Most of my big plays come from sacks. I really don't get picked on when it's time to run, to throw the ball around my area. I think I do pretty well in that field. I think that when teams start to look at the film in games or in practice, they'll see that I can still do that stuff even though it hasn't been really blown up. It's one of my favorite things to do."
Playing under former Jets head coach Al Groh, Blackstock has had the advantage of playing in a scheme that teaches NFL fundamentals.
Even the jerseys the team wore were eerily similar to those worn by the Jets. The practice tempo and pace was meant to prepare his team for the NFL as they emulated everything that Groh did on the big stage.
"He kept things the same," Blackstock explained. "I could imagine how they felt in New York when he was there. Everything was like we were under contract. He loved coaching me, and I love being taught, so that's a prime example right there."
His 11 sacks as a senior were tops in the nation amongst linebackers. And teams looking for a force at linebacker that can change a game quickly will be looking his way.
With 3-4 experience, it would seem those are the teams that will be leaning his way when the draft rolls around this week.
But don't jump to conclusions just yet Blackstock warns, "I think I'd be perfect for any scheme, 3-4, 4-3, 5-2, whatever. I think I can get the job done wherever because I'm a quick learner, I love the game, I love to learn. Whoever's my coach is going to love me as a player. He's gonna see that I'm eager to learn, eager to do new things, new techniques, new styles, new stunts. I'm just that type of player: the kind of guys coaches love."
It isn't a coincidence that he lists Baltimore, San Diego and New England as teams he thinks he would fit right in with.
Each of those teams have expressed an interest in him and he has had private workouts with the Ravens, Chiefs and Dolphins while the Bengals called him to express interest and the Browns called to get ask if they could do a background check on him. All but five teams have had a meeting with the explosive linebacker.
Don't expect Blackstock to back down from any competition when he steps into the league as a rookie. He is ready to back it up with his play.
"I'm not just one of those hype-man type of players," he said. "You can call me any time of the day, any day, especially Sunday, and ask me if I'm ready to play the game, and my answer's gonna be, "Hell yeah!" I'm just one of those types of guys. I'm always fired up. I'm always ready. I always have a want to do well, to be great. I've always wanted to be the best player on the field on defense.
"I like to be considered the bad guy on the field. I'm not a nice guy. If you ask me if I'm hard and stuff on the field, I'm going to tell you, ‘Yeah, I'm (a jerk). I'm too much on the field.' My attitude and mentality, my want to do well, makes me want to be better than you. It's really taken over. My skills are good but on the field I'm more of a student of the game than normal."
Blackstock Perfect for Parcells?
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