Ricky Sapp turning NFL heads

by - Senior Writer -
Ricky Sapp said his knee was about 60 percent for much of this past season.

CLEMSON – The NFL Combine can be a make-or-break proposition for many NFL hopefuls, the stop watches and dozens of tests over-riding college performances as National Football League teams dissect potential draftees from top to bottom.

For Clemson’s Ricky Sapp, however, the Combine definitely ended up on the “make” side of the equation.

The 6-foot-3, 252-pound defensive end/linebacker went to the Combine and answered all of the questions about his surgically-repaired right knee and certainly confirmed what everyone already knew about his athletic ability, leaving the only question as “what position will he play on the next level?”

Sapp said he went to the Combine, held in Indianapolis, with a pretty good idea of what to expect, and the knowledge aided him well as he went through the batteries of tests, poking and prodding.

“I talked to a lot of guys that had already been there, and I kind of knew what to expect going in,” Sapp said as he watched a recent Clemson practice. “That was a good thing for me. Really, the hardest thing, for me, about the whole Combine was having to get up every day at 5:30.

“We had to be up and doing all kinds of stuff. We had to take drug tests, we took the Wonderlic Test, and we had to see a lot of doctors. We did all of that early in the mornings. And we really didn’t get to work out til the last day, so it was mostly just taking all of the tests.”

Sapp went down to Boca Raton, Florida, prior to the Combine to rehab his knee, and he said the rehab helped his knee withstand the rigors of all of the tests. Sapp tore his ACL in Clemson’s Nov. 22, 2008 game against Virginia, and he admitted recently that his knee was about 60 percent for much of this past season.

“It is crazy,” Sapp said. “At the same time, it is overwhelming. You have 20-30 doctors pulling at your knee, poking at you, just making sure you’re healthy and everything is right. I was laying down and I was like, ‘He just pulled my knee several times, and you are going to do it again too?’ But it’s doing great. I heard the doctors talking about my knee and everything looks strong and stable.”

When Sapp was finally able to take his show out onto the field, he performed well enough to turn the heads of most NFL personnel directors.

Sapp ran a 4.61, 40-yard dash time in Indianapolis (some reports had him clocked at 4.7) and a surprising 23 reps of 225 on the bench press, and Sapp said he thought he did as well as he could.

“I think I did a great job,” he said. “I ran a great 40, and I did good in the other drills. In some of the linebacker drills I thought I did great. I think I surprised a lot of people because I don’t think they expected me to do as good as I did. I was prepared. I caught all the balls that were thrown to me, and did everything they asked. Overall, I had a great weekend and did a lot of great things.”

Sapp said he interviewed with 15 different NFL clubs, and he feels like most of them are looking at him as a linebacker rather than an end.

“I spoke with a lot of teams that wanted me to play end,” he said. “I met with a lot of teams that wanted me to play 3-4 [linebacker], and they asked me if I was more comfortable playing with my hand down or up. But, right now, I think more of the 3-4 teams are looking at me.”

Sapp also said he feels like he would make a relatively easy transition to the 3-4 defense after playing most of his career in Clemson’s 4-3 defense, and he said that the way Clemson defensive coordinator Kevin Steele used him this season would be of huge benefit.

Steele had Sapp on the line at times, but also used Sapp in coverage.

“I think it would be easy,” Sapp said. “Coach Steele brought the 3-4 package to Clemson this year. I did some standing up. I did some dropping. I think it would be an easy transition. A lot of them asked me how would I fit and how fast would I get the coverages down, how fast could I get the defense down. I told them I’m a visual learner. I learn fast, so I’d have no problem fitting in a 3-4 scheme.”

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