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After playing just one season of major college football, Jason Pierre-Paul of South Florida could be among the first defensive ends selected in the 2010 NFL Draft.


Jason Pierre-Paul Could Be Among First Defensive Ends Selected in 2010 NFL Draft

INDIANAPOLIS – Jason Pierre-Paul didn't want to leave college, necessarily.

Pierre-Paul, one of the least-known, big-potential stories in the NFL Draft, said when this past college season ended, his stock had risen so quickly, he didn't have a particular plan moving forward.

He had only months before arrived at the University of South Florida.

Still, he had had a big year. A real big year.

So, after a whirlwind season in his lone season with South Florida, Pierre-Paul petitioned the NFL to determine his 2010 NFL Draft status. After hearing from the league, his South Florida coaches helped him make what they told him was an easy decision.

It was time to leave.

"They said it would be selfish of them to say I should stay," Pierre-Paul said during the 2010 NFL Scouting Combine, which was held at Lucas Oil Stadium in downtown Indianapolis.

Months later, many analysts believe Pierre-Paul's stock is still rising.

Pierre-Paul (6-feet-5, 270 pounds), who focused on basketball until his junior year of high school and who played for three different colleges, forewent his senior season at USF, yet analysts believe he possesses such natural pass-rushing skills that he is considered by many a potential Top 15-to-20 selection in the April 22-24 NFL Draft.

"I'm just god-gifted," he said. "I have a talent. Even when I played basketball, no one ever taught me the game, I just played it. And with football, I just converted basketball to football and just played."

A few mock drafts have Pierre-Paul as the first defensive end taken, as high as No. 8 overall to the Oakland Raiders, and while some rate Derrick Morgan of Georgia Tech as the draft's top defensive end, few have Pierre-Paul dropping past the middle of the first round.

At the combine, Pierre-Paul was asked if he were the best pass-rusher in the draft.

"I think so, yeah," he said. "I'm going to get to the quarterback no matter what. I'm going to get there. . . . I go 110-percent and try to make big hits on the quarterback. That's it."

It was a rapid rise for a player who hadn't played a snap of major college football until last September.

Pierre-Paul, after initially choosing Central Florida out of high school, did not qualify academically, then as a freshman attended College of the Canyons in California, where he registered 14 sacks, 19 tackles for losses and two forced fumbles. He also earned All-America honors as a freshman.

He then transferred to Fort Scott (Kansas) Community College as a sophomore, finishing with 10.5 sacks and three forced fumbles and earning first-team Jayhawk Conference and All-America honors.

"Coming out high school they make you take an FCAT and you have to get a 300 or better and I got over 300 on the math, but on the reading I couldn't comprehend the vocabulary, so I wound up going to Junior College in Kansas and then I went to South Florida," he said. "The reason I chose South Florida was even though I didn't make it out of high school, (former South Florida Head) Coach (Jim) Leavitt came to my All-Star game and said he would be with me 100 percent of the way, and he really did.

"Even when I went left the College of the Canyons, he stayed by my side. That's the main reason I chose South Florida."

Pierre-Paul arrived at South Florida's camp late last summer because he was finishing his Associate of Arts degree, then played as a reserve in the Bulls' first two games. His second start of the season was in an upset victory over Florida State, a game in which he had three tackles for losses, a forced fumble, a sack and two pressures.

"My coach just kind of threw me in there to see what I could do and by the (third) game I started," Pierre-Paul said, adding of the Florida State game, "That was like my breakout game. I knew I was going to do that. I knew I was going to have a great game."

He finished the season with 16.5 tackles for losses, 6.5 sacks, and was named first-team All-Big East.

With many NFL teams utilizing or installing a three-linemen, four-linebacker scheme, some analysts believe Pierre-Paul's ability as a pass-rusher and limited experience against the run make him a fit for outside linebacker in such a scheme.

"A couple of teams have asked me about being a 3-4 outside linebacker, and I don't feel like that would be hard for me to adjust to," he said. "I feel I can be a stand-up end or a linebacker, because I'm still

going to rush the passer the same way. I haven't done any work in a 3-4, but I think I could adjust to it real quick. People say that (stopping the run) is my weakness but me, myself, I don't feel like that's my weakness.

The reason they say that is because if you look at a film, not every film, against the run, I'm probably stopping my feet and I don't get any separation. The tackle and the end they all twist my body. So if I keep my feet running like I do against the pass, I'll be all right."

As much as his production, it's his potential – and his athletic ability – that has many analysts and personnel officials projecting him as an early-round selection. A well-documented example of that athletic ability: his ability to do consecutive backflips. A clip of him doing 13 backflips without stopping has become a sensation, drawing nearly 500,000 views since December, and Pierre-Paul said that's hardly his record.

"The most I ever did was 23," he said. "I can do 23 no matter what. Without stopping."

However high his backflip record, Pierre-Paul said there is much he has to do prepare for the NFL, particularly considering his relatively lofty goals. The way Pierre-Paul approaches it, he said he excelled when he switched sin high school, then excelled again early in college. He did the same when he moved from junior to major college football, and his objective is to do to the same next season.

"I want to get faster," he said. "I watch football. I see all these great D-ends on TV. But I want to be greater. My first year in the NFL I want to break records. That's my goal. To break records. . . .

"When I first started the process, then I had that breakout game against Florida State, I looked at it like I was just a regular person. I never had any TV time coming from junior college before, and when I was first on TV I was like, 'Hey I'm on TV.' But then I wound up being in the top 10, and I just try to stay humble.

"I'm out of nowhere. I just play football."

This is considered one of the deepest drafts for offensive and defensive linemen in recent memory, and a major reason that's the case is the talent and depth at defensive end. While Derrick Morgan of Georgia Tech is widely considered the top defensive end available and a potential Top 10 selection, the raw potential and athleticism of Jason Pierre-Paul of South Florida also could make him a Top 10 selection. This is a year in which the hybrid defensive end/linebacker could be in high demand, with many teams moving to a 3-4 defense, and many analysts project at least 25-30 players at the position to be drafted sometime in the seven rounds. Everson Griffen of Southern California also is projected as a possible late first-round draft selection, as is Carlos Dunlap of Florida.

Dwight Freeney, ninth season, Syracuse; Robert Mathis, eighth season, Alabama A&M; Keyunta Dawson, fourth season, Texas Tech; Ervin Baldwin, second season, Michigan State; John Chick, first season, Utah State; J.D. Skolnitsky, first season, James Madison; Rudolph Hardie, first season, Howard.

The last five defensive ends drafted by the Colts . . .

2008: Marcus Howard, fifth round, Georgia.

2007: Keyunta Dawson, seventh round, Texas Tech.

2005: Jonathan Welsh, fifth round, Wisconsin.

2003: Robert Mathis, fifth round, Alabama A&M.

2002: Josh Mallard, seventh round, Georgia.

2002: Dwight Freeney, first round, Syracuse.

An alphabetical list of 20 defensive ends expected to be selected in the 2010 NFL Draft . . .

Rahim Alem, LSU, 6-3, 251

Kevin Basped*, Nevada, 6-5, 258

Alex Carrington, Arkansas State, 6-5, 285

Jermaine Cunningham, Florida, 6-4, 266

Hall Davis, Louisiana-Lafayette, 6-4, 271

Carlos Dunlap*, Florida, 6-6, 277

Everson Griffen*, Southern Cal, 6-4, 273

Greg Hardy, Mississippi, 6-4, 281

George Johnson, Rutgers, 6-5, 268

Austen Lane, Murray State, 6-6, 276

Brandon Lang, Troy, 6-4, 266

Derrick Morgan*, Georgia Tech, 6-3, 266

Jason Pierre-Paul*, South Florida, 6-5, 270

George Selvie, South Florida, 6-5, 252

Daniel Te'o-Nesheim, Washington, 6-4, 263

C.J. Wilson, East Carolina, 6-3, 290

Lindsey Witten, Connecticut, 6-5, 250

Corey Wootton, Northwestern, 6-6, 270

Willie Young, North Carolina State, 6-5, 251

E.J. Wilson, North Carolina, 6-3, 286

Note: The content in this story and in the series of draft-eligible players that appears on in no way reflects the position of the Indianapolis Colts.

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