The Steelers drafted Virginia Tech linebacker Jason Worilds in the second round.
By Gerry Dulac Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Jason Worilds had planned on spending the second night of the National Football League draft watching television and doing pushups, a reminder of the way he first started working out to build himself into a 6-foot-2, 262-pound defensive terror -- just doing pushups.
But when his name was called in the second round with the 52nd overall pick by the Steelers, it was a reminder and a salute to his mom, Sandra, who did everything for the youngest of her two sons, including being his prom date.
"We've always been close," Sandra Worilds said. "I always tried to instill in him to be positive and be respectful. I told him as long as you remain the person you are and respect people, they will respect you. Jason is a really good example of that."
Three years ago, the outside linebacker from Virginia Tech was known as Jason Adjepong, which was the legal name of his father. But, to honor his mom, he went to a Virginia courthouse and legally reclaimed the name -- Worilds (pronounced "worlds") -- he was given at birth before his father switched it.
That way, whenever his name was called on television or at the stadium -- and even during the NFL draft -- it would be a tribute to Sandra Worilds, who spent a lot of her time working in a hospital and at several private nursing jobs in Rahway, N.J., to help raise her sons.
"Whenever my name was called, I wanted it to say 'Worilds,' " he said Thursday, making his way through the Newark Airport to come to Pittsburgh for the three-day rookie minicamp that begins today. "That way it would honor my mom.
"I love my mom, I love the values she gave me. She did a lot for me. Everything I do in my life is for her."
That Worilds name was called by the Steelers was something of a surprise.
Penn State linebacker Sean Lee, who went to Upper St. Clair High School, appeared to be the player the Steelers were targeting in the second round after selecting Florida center Maurkice Pouncey with the 18th overall pick. They had a first-round grade on Lee and thought he fit the way they played better than any linebacker in the draft.
But, the Steelers did not think Lee would be available when it came their turn.
When he was, it seemed like an obvious choice. But coach Mike Tomlin really liked Worilds, an undersized defensive end in college who fit nicely as a disruptive outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense -- something the Steelers were lacking behind James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley.
What's more, the return of Larry Foote in free agency gave the Steelers four inside linebackers, along with James Farrior, Lawrence Timmons and Keyaron Fox. Even though Farrior is 35, the need for depth was more dire on the outside, not inside.
So they passed on Lee and selected Worilds.
"Jason Worilds is a very athletic guy who can get after the quarterback," said director of football operations Kevin Colbert. "Teams started paying more attention to him this year and his sack production went down. But he was just as effective and just as disruptive, and probably had his best game of the year in his last game against Tennessee."
Worilds was not a stand-up pass rusher at Virginia Tech, where he recorded 34 tackles for losses and 15 sacks in 25 career starts. He played exclusively in a three-point stance, something the Steelers worry about when they try to project a defensive end as an outside linebacker in their defense.
But, when the Steelers went to Virginia Tech for a workout, linebackers coach Keith Butler was impressed with the way Worilds handled all the drills, including opening his hips and dropping into coverage.
"He probably had one of the best workouts this year of anyone we've seen," Butler said. "He was able to do things that we wanted him to do that we think he can do in this system."
That all sounds good to Worilds, who thinks he fits nicely into the mold of outside linebackers in the Steelers' defense.
"You look at those outside guys, James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley, and the way they get after the ball and how much passion they play with ... they're physical, explosive players," Worilds said. "I like to model my game after them. I'm excited to come in and learn as much as I can from those guys."
About that prom date.
Since he was in ninth grade, Worilds always told his mom he was going to take her to the prom when he was a senior at Cateret (N.J.) High School. But Sandra Worilds always dismissed the talk, telling her son he would change his mind once the time came.
"I told her I was going to do it and she would always say, 'Oh, you'll change your mind,' " Worilds said. "But I didn't."
It wasn't because Worilds couldn't get a date. He just wanted to take his mom.
"I thought he would change his mind," Sandra Worilds said Thursday, excited that her son's new team is less than a six-hour drive from her home. "But, sure enough, when he was a senior, he said, "What are you going to wear to the prom?' We did wind up going. It was nice."
If nothing else, Jason Worilds is a man of his word.