O'HARA: Larry Webster's future is in football

Posted May 15, 2014

When Larry Webster’s basketball eligibility expired in the spring of 2012, it didn’t take a hard selling job to get him to accept an opportunity to transfer his game from the hardwood to the gridiron.

Paul Darragh could not have been in a better position to scout Larry Webster for four years and then recruit him to play on Bloomsburg University’s defensive line.

Darragh’s view was up close and personal. Webster was a starting forward on Bloomsburg’s basketball team for four years, and Darragh was the football team’s defensive coordinator.

When Webster’s basketball eligibility expired in the spring of 2012, it didn’t take a hard selling job to get Webster to accept an opportunity to transfer his game from the hardwood to the gridiron.

Larry WebsterDE Larry Webster (Photo: AP Images)

Webster wanted to use the two semesters of athletic eligibility he had left under NCAA Division II rules. And Darragh thought Webster’s size -- 6-6 ½ and almost 240 pounds at the time – and the skills that made him a rebounding and shot-blocking force in basketball would transfer to defensive end.

It was a good move for both. Bloomsburg got two good seasons from Webster as a pass-rushing defensive end, and Webster’s performance impressed the Lions enough for them to make him a fourth-round draft pick.

But back to the recruiting process.

It really wasn’t difficult or complicated for Darragh, who was Bloomsburg’s defensive coordinator for 16 years before being promoted to head coach in 2013.

Webster had played high school football in Maryland. And his father, Larry Webster Sr., played defensive line in the NFL for 11 seasons and was a member of the 2000 Ravens team that won the Super Bowl.

Larry Jr. chose basketball over football because he got a basketball scholarship from Bloomsburg, located in central Pennsylvania.

“At some point in time, we knew that Larry would exhaust his basketball eligibility and would have some eligibility left over in another sport,” Darragh said in a telephone interview from his office. “Knowing his father, his lineage, and just his skill set, it would be pretty neat to get him out and play some football.”

Webster’s reconnection with football began as a trial run in spring practice in 2012, but he was in it for the long run.

“Starting out, I think there was a question of how he would react to the physical aspect of the game,” Darragh said. “Early on, he showed that it would not be a problem. He had to get into the idea of taking on blocks and shedding blocks.

“He’s like any athlete. He likes to compete. He certainly got his love for football back. I do believe he has the physical toughness to take on blocks and get off blocks.

“We approached it that he would be a pass-rushing guy and wasn’t going to have to play a whole lot on first down. He became so good, we needed him to play on first down. He became an every-down player for us.”

By the end of the 2013 season, Webster’s second at Bloomsburg, he was no longer a basketball player playing football. He was a genuine football player, with a future at the next level.

On the basketball court, he averaged 11.1 points and 7.2 rebounds per game and set the school’s career record with 175 blocked shots.

On the football field, he had 13.5 sacks in 2012 and 12.5 in 2013 playing the “open” end on Bloomsburg’s four-man front. The scheme is similar to the four-man front the Lions will run this year.

Webster also was used sparingly on offense because of his size, leaping ability and good hands. At his Pro Day workout, the pro scouts had him run pass patterns and drop into coverage like an outside linebacker.

GM Martin Mayhew said when Webster was drafted that he was taken strictly as a defensive end.

Webster had a competitive attitude in both basketball and football.

“He always came to play,” Darragh said. “He’s a practice guy. There was never an issue that there was a sense that he didn’t want to be there. He’s attentive. He’s coachable.

“When he comes to practice, he goes full speed.”