End brings speed and plenty of it

At one point in his life, Lee Vickers thought his ticket to the pros was his right arm. But the Pittsburgh Steelers have other ideas for the undrafted free agent prospect from the University of North Alabama.

The 6-6 Vickers was a 185-pound high school pitcher/quarterback with a golden arm, one that earned him a spot in professional baseball for a cup of coffee.

But like many others before him, Vickers found professional baseball a fickle game, one that casts pitchers away when they begin to have arm problems like Vickers did.

"I started having arm troubles," said Vickers. "At that point, I was also starting to miss playing football, so I walked on at North Alabama."

Vickers first tried to play quarterback, his first love in high school. But when he didn't win the starting job, he went looking for another position.

Vickers also played cornerback in high school – imagine a 6-6 corner – but he knew that wasn't in the cards. Instead, he moved up to the front seven, splitting time at linebacker and defensive end.

"At that point, I was playing defensive end and linebacker at like 220 pounds," Vickers said. "I wasn't the biggest defensive end, but I could get by on my speed."

Did we mention that Vickers is faster than many NFL safeties?

At his pre-draft workout in Orlando, according to several sources, the New York Giants timed Vickers at 4.57 seconds in the 40-yard dash. And that was at his current weight of 280 pounds, not the slimmer version of previous years.

"There aren't many people as big as Lee is who can run 4.5 forty's," North Alabama coach Mark Hudspeth told the News Courier in Athens, Alabama. "That's what they look for in the NFL."

"If you are a large guy, with a lot of athletic ability, they are going to find you and mold you into a football player."

NFL teams certainly took notice.

"Some teams looked at me as a tight end, others looked at me as a linebacker," said Vickers. "The Steelers actually talked to me about playing both. But we settled on defensive end. I think when they looked at the success that guys like Brett Keisel, big guys who can run, have had, they saw some of that in me. At least I hope they do.

"I'd love to be able to fill that same role that Keisel did early in his career on special teams."

Several other teams, including Jaguars, wanted Vickers after the draft. But he saw an opportunity in Pittsburgh that he didn't elsewhere. Jacksonville wanted him as a tight end.

"This just seemed like the best opportunity for me," Vickers said. "And to get to come to a team that's the defending Super Bowl champions with the guys they have in this locker room, it's truly special."

Courtesy of the Observer-Reporter

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