Returning to the football field wasn’t as difficult for Larry Webster as it might seem.
It also could be more beneficial in the long run than he might have imagined when he decided to go out for spring football in 2012 after four seasons as a starter on Bloomsburg University’s basketball team.
Webster’s play as an athletic, pass-rushing defensive end the last two seasons caught the eye of the NFL personnel evaluators. He was invited to the Combine in Indianapolis last month, and his performance in the agility drills was among the best of all defensive linemen – including South Carolina star defensive end Jadeveon Clowney.
Clowney’s 40-yard time of 4.53 seconds was No. 1. Webster was second in 4.58.
Clowney was second overall in the broad jump with a leap of 10 feet, 4 inches. Webster was next longest at 10-3.
Clowney was second with a vertical jump of 37.5 inches. Webster was an inch back at 36.5.
There shouldn’t be any illusions that Webster will be drafted in the same range as Clowney. Clowney could be the first pick overall on May 8. Webster is a third-day prospect, probably fifth round or lower.
The inevitable issue facing players such as Webster from Division II schools is how they will fare compared to players like Clowney, who dominated at the highest level. For Webster, there is an additional question from scouts and coaches.
“A couple have asked me, just coming from basketball, was I tough?” Webster said after his visit to the Lions Thursday. “I think I’m tough enough, but some people figure that since I came from basketball, I don’t like to hit.”
Teams are starting to take a deeper look at Webster as they prepare for the 2014 draft May 8-10. Webster said he has other visits lined up with the Buccaneers and Cardinals.
“It’s pretty exciting,” Webster said Thursday before leaving the Lions’ headquarters. “I’ve been travelling a lot. I usually don’t travel a lot. It’s a pretty good experience.”
Webster was raised in a football environment. His father, Larry Webster Sr., played defensive line in the NFL for 11 seasons and was a member of the 2000 Baltimore Ravens team that beat the Giants in the Super Bowl.
“If I have any questions, he’ll always be there for me to ask and tell me about his process,” Webster said of his father.
Webster played basketball and football at Elkton High School, outside of Baltimore. Choosing basketball over football was a decision that made itself.
“Out of high school, I got recruited to play basketball,” Webster said. “I got a full ride to play basketball.”
Bloomsburg plays in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference, made up of Division II schools. In terms of quality and competition, it is on par with the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
Webster had a fine college basketball career, averaging 11.1 points and 7.3 points per game with 175 blocked shots in 98 games. In his last season (2011-12), he was the PSAC’s Eastern Division player of the year.
Under NCAA rules, he had two semesters of athletic eligibility left after four years of basketball. He went out for spring ball in 2012 and played two seasons as a starting end.
He was a productive pass-rusher, playing mostly left end in a 4-3 scheme. He had 13.5 sacks and 15 tackles for loss in 2012 and 12.5 sacks and 16 tackles for loss in 2013.
Bloomsburg also used Webster’s height and basketball skills in spot situations. He had two catches, both for touchdowns, in 2012. In 2013, he returned a blocked punt for a touchdown.
At 6-6 ¾, Webster has the frame that NFL teams look for in pass-rushers. Fresh off the basketball court, he gained five pounds to play at 235 in 2012 and got up to 245 in 2013. He weighed in at 252 for the Combine.
Visits by prospects are more than a star search for NFL teams. The Lions want to meet with players they have a reasonable chance to draft in all seven rounds – and sometimes beyond.
For example, last year they had visits from tight end