Snapshot: Mike Farrell

He's a late-bloomer from Penn State, but local native Mike Farrell has been sculpting his craft since Day One.

It should be required every year that the Steelers place a quick-footed offensive tackle on their practice squad, if only for the chance that some day he'll save the franchise millions as an NFL left tackle.

This year, that guy could be Mike Farrell.

A local prospect, Farrell grew up in Fox Chapel and went to high school at Shady Side Academy and college at Penn State before landing with the Steelers this past spring as a 6-6, 303-pound left tackle on the third-team line.

Does Farrell have a chance?

Penn State always thought so, and the late-bloomer became an honorable mention All-Big Ten tackle after starting 12 games his senior season, his only season as a starter.

"It's going well," said Farrell at the conclusion of spring drills in Pittsburgh. "I've started games at both positions this past year at Penn State, so I expected to be at either one when I showed up here. I'm sure that they would trust me at either one. I played exclusively at left so far and it's gone well."

Farrell was a captain and all-state performer for a 9-2 Shady Side team his senior season, and turned away Miami (Ohio) to play for Penn State, thus ending his days as a two-sport star.

"I was in the 280s and that's a little heavy to play lacrosse," he said of his other game. "I kind of had to choose a sport and obviously my first love was football. I took that route and made sacrifices to excel there."

At Penn State, Farrell was red-shirted before becoming the top reserve at left tackle in 2009 and 2010, when he made only one start.

The 2011 season was a chaotic one for all at Penn State, and it was certainly a disappointing one for Farrell, who was prepared to start until spraining his knee in the opener. He missed a month and played only in reserve upon his return, which occurred during the lowest point in school history.

"That was the chaotic time," Farrell said of the Jerry Sandusky scandal. "We lost our head coach and some of our other coaches in the middle of the season. We weren't sure what was going to happen and we still had to finish the regular season. That was where most of the chaotic events were, just to figure out where the dust was going to settle. Once we knew what we were facing we kind of put a plan together to attack it and kind of moved in a positive direction. My last year, there really wasn't a lot of chaos to it."

With a new coach in 2012, and more zone-blocking to suit the mobile offensive linemen, Farrell started all 12 games (nine at right tackle, three at left tackle).

After the season he ran an impressive 5.18 40 at his pro day to attract interest as a late-bloomer. He signed with the Steelers after the draft because they hadn't selected an offensive lineman and were looking for more mobility, because they too were expanding their zone-blocking schemes with new OL coach Jack Bicknell, Jr.

"I saw a lot of the system he was bringing, as far as the run game goes," Farrell said. "I thought the experience I had in college may translate a little bit, may give me a small leg up in that aspect, so that was definitely one of the reasons."

A three-time All-Academic Big 10 scholar-athlete, Farrell became worn down as a junior by a burdensome schedule as a student-teacher at a State College junior high. But he's putting his future as an educator/coach on hold for the dream of playing left tackle in the NFL.

Now it's just a matter of how high this late-riser can rise.

"I've heard that," Farrell said of the late-bloomer tag. "It's a nice way to look at it. But I've taken a day-by-day approach as long as I've played the sport, to just get better every day I've been at it. If that's what the perspective is on the outside, and it reflects positively on me, that's great. I definitely think I've always just tried to improve every day. The fact some people say that now, it's positive."

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