Michigan State's Worthy wants to prove he's draft's best DT

  • By Mike Schwartz NFL.com
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Mike Carter/US Presswire
Michigan State DT Jerel Worthy is expected to be one of the first defensive tackles taken in the upcoming draft.


 

CULVER CITY, Calif. -- Tattoos are not for the faint of heart, but Michigan State defensive tackle Jerel Worthy is not lacking in courage.

Worthy wears his brash style on his sleeve -- or rather, his left arm. The design of a Spartan stomping on a wolverine wearing a Michigan helmet alerts others not just of his hatred for his collegiate rival, but also of his confidence.

"I didn't know it was going to get as much exposure as it did," Worthy said in a sit-down interview with NFL.com. The defensive tackle got the tattoo before his last season at Michigan State. "I'm just glad we won our last game against them."

But Worthy contends his outspokenness, which has included taking a shot at Wisconsin quarterback Russell Wilson on Twitter before last season, isn't just bluster.

"As the leader of my team, I speak out and I'm confident. There's a proper way of doing it. But at the same time, you have to make sure everybody's on the same page. Once everyone's on the same page, you'll have a lot of success."

The confidence has come in handy for Worthy, who now faces uncertainty as a potential first-round draft pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. The unanimous All-American admits he scrolls through speculation of his potential landing spots, but "mock drafts never make you feel great about yourself, unless you're Andrew Luck or (Robert Griffin III)."

Though the pre-draft process hasn't chipped away at Worthy's confidence, he said he did listen to analysts say he was inconsistent. Worthy granted that the criticism wasn't out of line, but believes teams won't have to worry about his uneven play.

"Early on in my past season, I wasn't as dominant as I could be. I think it was a maturity thing," Worthy said. "As I've grown and become a better person and player, it allowed my game to flourish a little bit and be a guy that guys depended on."

With several defensive tackles competing to be selected in the first round but no consensus on the order in which they'll be taken, Worthy has realized he has little room for error. The title of the draft's best interior lineman is a designation Worthy thinks he has deserved, and he is intent on proving it again at the next level.

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"I think when you look at the best defensive tackle in this class, you have to bring in how much he means to your team," Worthy said. "How would the team function if he's not in there? I want to be a guy where it becomes a problem if I'm not in the game."

Finding motivation hasn't been hard for Worthy over the years. But he rededicated himself after his father suffered a stroke before the 2010 season, saying he wanted to do right by the "most influential man" in his life.

And with his NFL dreams about to materialize, Worthy hopes he is about to do just that.

"It definitely took a toll on me. But it allowed me to grow as a person and become a much stronger man," Worthy said. "When you see your father be reduced to a hospital bed, it gets to you a little bit. It allowed me to grow and reshape myself to the person that I want to be. I'm only getting better at making great decisions -- the sky is the limit."

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