Alabama’s Courtney Upshaw, an MVP of this year’s BCS National Championship game and last year’s Capital One Bowl, is a 6'2", 273 pound outside linebacker that spent his Senior year racking up 52 tackles, 18 tackles for loss, 9.5 sacks, 10 quarterback hurries, 2 forced fumbles and an interception returned for a touchdown. His one-on-one drills and practices at the Senior Bowl are receiving rave reviews from scouts and evaluators. He is expected to go in the first round of the upcoming NFL draft, possibly in the top ten.
Some evaluators think the 3-4 defense at Bama limits Upshaw’s NFL options, surmising 4-3 teams might be unwilling to use a top pick on him. As Courtney points out, he played defensive end in high school and routinely lined up in that position for the Tide. He was asked if he's a better fit in a 43 or 34. "I'm a better fit for any team that wants to pick me," Upshaw quipped. "My strength is me being able to do whatever a team asks me to do and to do it to the best of my ability. If you get nervous about what the scouts are saying you're not going to perform to the best of your ability and this is like a job interview. You want to perform."
Steelers scout Mark Gorscak favorably compared Upshaw to Super Bowl-winning LaMarr Woodley, who had 44 sacks over the last four years. Some scouts have considered lowering Upshaw’s draft grade because he is shorter than the prototypical pass rusher. Gorscak thinks that would be a mistake. "He is like Woodley," Gorscak said. "Thick body guys. Powerful and play with their hands.” Upshaw will likely be drafted much higher than Woodley (early second round) because the NFL has come around on dinging pass rushers too much for body type.
Nobody in Alabama is surprised at Upshaw’s success, or his big heart. More than anything, he keeps himself grounded by remembering his humble beginnings in Eufaula, Alabama. A great read from Don Kausler, Jr. at Al.com reminds that no matter the heights Upshaw attains, he continues to pay his blessings forward, including founding the “41 Fund” to raise money for tornado victims.
When asked by one of the reporters this week what he would do with his NFL money, Courtney kept it simple: "I'm just going to get an apartment and probably a nice car and try to invest it and save up. I'm the type of guy, I have a little girl and two little sisters I want to take care of. It's no big investments for me when I get that money."
While he may keep things low key off the field, he doesn’t hesitate to dream big on the field. Like fellow hometowner Jerrel Jernigan (New York Giants), Upshaw can see himself playing in the Super Bowl one day. He’s just looking for the right team ready for a quarterback-seeking-missile of a defender. “I’m going to go into the League, no matter what round, what pick, what team, and I’m going to fight to the fullest and my hardest. I’m all about winning. I’m competitive. I want to make it to a team and hopefully help them get to the Super Bowl and win a championship.”
And, hint, he’s a huge Colts fan (#1 pick in the draft).
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