INDIANAPOLIS – When Lavonte David left Fort Scott Community College and began searching for a school to further his dream to play in the NFL, the thrill of putting on the red and white Nebraska jersey was not what sold him.
Instead, the chance to be known as a ‘black shirt’ on the Cornhuskers defense is what sealed the deal for David.
The tradition of the ‘black shirts’ at Nebraska dates back to the 1960s and represents the jersey color worn at practice for the 11 starters on the Cornhuskers defense.
“On my recruiting visit everybody was talking about what it takes to get a black shirt,” David said. “The tradition of the black shirts goes way back and you’ve got to earn it. You’ve got to prove to the coaches that you’re capable of getting a black shirt and also to your teammates as well.”
David did much more than just earn a ‘black shirt’ during his two seasons in Lincoln.
He was a first-team All-American and was named a finalist for the 2011 Butkus Award, which goes to the nation’s top linebacker. He carried on the ‘black shirt’ tradition proudly. Others entering the program will be measured by his numbers the way David was sized up when he walked on campus.
One of the unique opportunities that David had at Nebraska was playing in the Big 12 during his junior season before the Cornhuskers made the switch to the Big Ten this past year.
Going from the more wide open style of the Big 12 to the running style of the Big Ten was just fine with the Florida native.
“The Big Ten stood out the most because linebackers really like to play downhill, and that’s one thing that I really liked about the Big Ten,” David said. “Obviously, the Big 12, you've got a lot more pass-oriented offenses. You go into the Big Ten, (there are) downhill running schemes. They both were great experiences for me, they've both got a great level of competition.”
Despite only playing two seasons at Nebraska, David finished fourth on the program’s all-time tackles list with 285. He had 133, 65 solo, last season. Among the stops were 13 tackles for losses and 5.5 sacks. David also had two interceptions. He ranked third in the conference in stops per game. David had six double-digit tackles games, including 17 against Michigan.
As a junior, David earned Big 12 Defensive Newcomer-of-the-Year with a school-record 152 tackles. He was a unanimous First-team All-Big 12 selection, totaling eight double-digit tackle games. He averaged just under 11 tackles per game and three times topped 15 tackles. In ranking 11th nationally in tackles per game, he produced 15 tackles for losses and six sacks.
Another advantage that David believes he has in moving to the NFL is the ability to be a successful linebacker in a 3-4 or 4-3 defense.
“I think I’m okay to play in either,” David said. “At Nebraska we had a mixture of both, 4-3 and 3-4, and I think I got a great feel for it. I'm naturally an outside linebacker. That's the position I feel more comfortable at, that's the position I think I could thrive in.”
Come the NFL Draft, David will join a long list of former Northwestern High School (Miami) stars that have played at the highest level. Among the dozen or more football stars to emerge from the high school were Melvin Bratton, Brett Perriman, Marvin Jones, Nate Webster and Tony Martin.
After playing safety at Northwestern, David made the switch to linebacker but there is one thing that has not changed since he first started putting the pads on.
“I think my game shows for itself,” David said. “I just love the playing the game of football and on film it shows the passion that I have.”
LOOKING AT THE 2012 NFL DRAFT'S OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS
THE LAST FIVE
The last five outside linebackers drafted by the Colts:
2008: Philip Wheeler, third round, Georgia Tech
2007: Clint Session, fourth round, Pittsburgh
2006: Freddy Keiaho, third round, San Diego State
THIS YEAR'S DRAFT
An alphabetical list of outside linebackers expected to be selected in the 2012 NFL Draft (*-denotes underclassman):
Emmanuel Acho, Texas
Nigel Bradham, Florida State
Zach Brown, North Carolina
Lavonte David, Nebraska
Josh Kaddu, Oregon
Brandon Lindsey, Pittsburgh
Shea McClellin, Boise State
Sean Spence, Miami
Danny Trevathan, Kentucky
Courtney Upshaw, Alabama
Note: The content in this story and in the series of draft-eligible players that appears on Colts.com in no way reflects the position of the Indianapolis Colts.