Bobby Wagner's Sacrifice Paying Dividends

In a league where every player is extremely talented, things like commitment and sacrifice make all the difference. Utah State LB Bobby Wagner knew that, which is why he spent last summer away from his family and focusing exclusively on football. It wasn't an easy decision but it is paying dividends now, as he has emerged as one of the draft's top playmakers.

Bobby Wagner did not need to do anything drastic to improve his game. He was playing well enough already, averaging 100 tackles per season during his first three years at Utah State. But he knew he was capable of more ... capable of greatness.

So he decided to make a sacrifice. Last summer, instead of returning home to spend time with his family as he normally does, Wagner stayed in Logan, Utah, and focused solely on football.

"It was a big commitment, not seeing my family and stuff, but it helped me out a lot during the season," he said. "I was ready. I was focused and I made more plays than I ever have in my life."

As a senior, he led the WAC by averaging 11.31 tackles per game. He also added 11.5 tackles for loss, four sacks and two interceptions.

He had one objective -- find a way to be around the football -- and he succeeded more often than not.

"My instincts are pretty good. If I'm not around the ball making the tackle I'm like two steps away from making the tackle," he said. "That's my biggest asset, always being around the ball and being ready to make the tackle."

The eye in the sky shows Wagner is an elite playmaker. He understands his defensive assignments, allowing him to react rather than think. He also understands what opposing offenses are trying to do against him, allowing him to anticipate plays before they happen.

What he doesn't understand is why the fact he played at Utah State has NFL teams questioning whether he can do those things on Sundays.

"A lot of people don't know too much about me because I came from Utah State and we don't get much of the national spotlight, but my big thing [at the Senior Bowl] is showing that I can play with the best of the best," he said. "It doesn't matter what school I came from or these other players came from, if you can play at Utah State you can play football wherever."

There are some other questions about Wagner, most of them concerning his speed. He feels his speed is underestimated, however, and looks forward to proving as much at the NFL Combine.

Wagner has already set goals for the numbers he would like to post in Indianapolis next month. He doesn't want to make those numbers public, but if history is any indication he will hit them. Because if there are two things Bobby Wagner does well, they are putting up numbers and hitting things.

Michael Lombardo is a long-time contributor to the network. His analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports. He has followed the Chargers for more than 16 years and covered the team since 2003. You can see more of his updates by following him on twitter.

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