Former Penn State defensive end Carl Nassib is a projected second- or third-round pick in this year's NFL draft.
By Gerry Dulac / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
INDIANAPOLIS — Carl Nassib eased his long frame into a chair at Lucas Oil Stadium, taking a break at the NFL Scouting Combine before taking another step toward his goal of playing in the NFL. Not too many people believed that would ever happen. Not even his coach at Penn State.
But, after leading Football Bowl Subdivision with 15½ sacks last season, after winning the Lombardi Award for being the country’s best interior lineman, Nassib is doing more than getting ready to realize his dream. He’s climbing up draft boards with every move he makes at the combine.
“I never cared what other people thought about my size and my abilities,” Nassib said. “I was always confident in myself.”
Nassib measured in at the combine at just a pinch under 6 feet 7 and 277 pounds and was timed Sunday in the 40-yard dash at 4.84 seconds. That was .02 seconds faster than Ohio State defensive end Joey Bosa, who will likely be among the top four picks in the draft. He also did 21 reps in the 225-pound bench and 28½ inches in the vertical jump.
The Steelers, who are looking for young defensive ends to improve their depth behind Cam Heyward and Stephon Tuitt, met with Nassib after talking with him at the Senior Bowl.
“I would not count out Carl Nassib from becoming a really good defensive end in the NFL,” draft analyst Mike Mayock said on NFL Network. Mayock went a step further, comparing his size and physical skills to former Minnesota Vikings defensive end Jared Allen
Nobody would have believed that several years ago.
Nassib never started a game in high school at Malvern (Pa.) Prep and didn’t receive a single Division I scholarship offer. He went to Penn State as a 6-foot-5, 218-pound walk-on after being invited by coach Bill O’Brien and tried to play defensive end. After two seasons, he told O’Brien, a former NFL coordinator, he would like to play in the NFL one day.
It was about all O’Brien could do to keep a straight face. He basically told Nassib he had a better chance of walking on the moon and to worry about starting at Penn State, not the NFL.
“It was interesting,” Nassib said, sitting in the chair and wearing a blue sweat suit zipped halfway up his neck. “He didn’t necessarily agree with my ambitions. He told me how he felt and I took it as he said it.”
If O’Brien was right, Nassib said he would probably be pursuing medical school to become a pediatrician. Why a pediatrician? “I don’t know, kids and dogs,” he said. “I get along with kids and dogs really well.” But O’Brien, now coach of the Houston Texans, and just about everybody else have been proven wrong.
Nassib grew two inches and put on nearly 60 pounds after his sophomore season, mainly by eating better, he said. After three years of never starting a game at Penn State, he developed into one of the most dominating defensive ends in the country as a redshirt senior in 2015. In addition to leading FBS in sacks, he also had 19½ tackles for loss, six forced fumbles and was named the Big Ten Conference defensive player of the year.
“I was given this opportunity that I created,” said Nassib, a West Chester, Pa., native. “Every day I went out and tried to make the best of it.
“My mentality changed. I knew I was going to be in a leadership role. I took full responsibility of that. I had people counting on me to step up. So I took that responsibility very seriously and worked very hard to succeed.”
Now, here he is, being projected as a second- or third-round draft choice and drawing comparisons to a five-time Pro Bowl defensive end with 136 career sacks, ninth most all time.
Nassib would like nothing better than to play with his older brother, Ryan, a backup quarterback with the New York Giants. But he would settle for playing against him, even sacking him, too.
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