Bills' Dareus bolstered by his late mother's wisdom

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Buffalo Bills owner Ralph Wilson has such high expectations of Marcell Dareus, he's already planning to make room on the team's Wall of Fame for the top draft pick.

That's the message Wilson delivered after he was introduced to the former Alabama defensive lineman Friday, a day after Dareus was chosen third overall in the NFL draft.

They met shortly after Wilson attended a Wall of Fame committee meeting, when Dareus expressed interest in touring the stadium across the parking lot from the team's headquarters.

"He said, 'I want to go over to see the stadium.' And I said, 'Your name will be up there someday,'" Wilson said. "I think he's going to be a great player for us."

The Bills drafted the versatile 6-foot-3, 308-pound lineman with an eye on him anchoring what's been a porous defense. In becoming Buffalo's highest draft pick since Hall of Fame defensive end Bruce Smith was selected first overall in 1985, Dareus also is being counted upon to turn around the fortunes of a franchise that's missed the playoffs for 11 straight years.

Dareus is unaffected by the pressure and expectations placed on him to make an immediate impact after only three years at college. He didn't get this far without overcoming numerous challenges, while drawing upon his late mother's "never-give-up" approach to life.

Dareus' mother, Michelle Luckey, was foremost on his mind when he bear-hugged NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell shortly after he was drafted. And he drew on her memory once again in addressing Buffalo-area reporters on Friday, a little less than a year after Luckey died of heart failure.

Asked the best advice she provided him, Dareus recalled the time he was in middle school and his mother was gravely ill.

"She was on her deathbed a couple of times when I was growing up. And the one time, I said, 'Mom, why are you still fighting?'" Dareus said. "She looked at me and said, 'I have seven kids. Do you want me to be gone now or do you want me to keep fighting?'"

Dareus' answer was simple: "Keep fighting."

It's the approach Dareus took to the football field, on which he's played a key role in stopping the run and pressuring the pocket for what's been a stingy Crimson Tide defense.

Dareus finished with 11 sacks and 20 quarterback pressures in 33 career games, including 15 starts. He also was part of a defense that finished in the top 10 in the nation against the run each of the past two seasons. Dareus was the defensive MVP in helping the Crimson Tide defeat Texas in the 2010 national championship game.

"I'm a hungry young man, ready to make the transition, who wants to cause havoc in the league," Dareus said. "I want to help turn the team around, take us to another level. I guess I'm the starting piece to it."

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press

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