Past Boilermakers motivated Kerrigan

Past Boilermakers motivated Kerrigan
April 29, 2011, 9:19 pm
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Friday, April 29, 2011, 5:17 p.m.

By Ryan OHalloran
Staff WriterCSNwashington.com

Ryan Kerrigan said a huge selling point four years ago in choosing Purdue was the programs track record producing pass rushers like Anthony Spencer, Cliff Avril and Ray Edwards, all of whom parlayed college success into a professional career.

I wanted to be That Next Guy, Kerrigan said.

Kerrigan was That Next Purdue Guy, starting for three years and finishing his career with 33.5 sacks and 14 forced fumbles, numbers better than the aforementioned trio.

The road to being That Next NFL Guy From Purdue began Thursday night when the Redskins drafted his 16th overall with the expectation that he will boost a pass rush that last year got only seven sacks from linebackers not named Brian Orakpo.

Kerrigans whirlwind week continued Friday when he flew to northern Virginia and was introduced at a noon-hour press conference.

If and when hes able to begin working with defensive coordinator Jim Haslett and linebackers coach Lou Spanos, Kerrigans crash-course in playing outside linebacker will begin in earnest.

But donning a Redskins cap and holding up a burgundy No. 1 jersey and meeting owner Dan Snyder came first for Kerrigan, whose traveling party included his parents.

Its been an awesome experience, he said. When I got the phone call yesterday, I was extremely thrilled.

The Redskins were likewise thrilled to add a pass rusher to compliment Brian Orakpo even though coach Mike Shanahan and general manager Bruce Allen did not attend the seven-minute press conference. Haslett and Spanos sat in the back of the auditorium and afterward, Haslett declined comment.

That left others to guess how the Redskins plan to use Kerrigan, who was almost exclusively a defensive end at Purdue.

Purdue defensive coordinator Gary Emanuel, also the line coach, had an idea.

Basically right after the season, Emanuel told me I would have to learn the linebacker position because you want to be valuable to all 32 teams in the draft, Kerrigan said. Obviously, it paid off.

Kerrigan went to work before the Scouting Combine on drills that are usually foreign to defensive ends, chiefly moving away from the football instead of toward it.

Moving your body in ways youre not used to do was different at first, he said. But I felt Ive made strides.

Kerrigan impressed Shanahan at the Combine by not looking uncomfortable despite the new drills.

It was very important, Kerrigan said. I wanted to be as valuable as I could going into the draft and I wanted to show I am athletic enough to play the outside linebacker position.

Kerrigan soon visited Redskin Park for a visit and left telling his father that Washington may be the place for him.

I really liked the staff here, he said. I thought I would fit in well with him.

Kerrigan, only Purdues second first-round pick on defense in 23 years, is expected to compete with Lorenzo Alexander for the Week 1 starting assignment.

Alexander, who was one of 12 Redskins players who appeared at the complex Thursday morning, started 12 games at outside linebacker last year and played 632 of 1,088 snaps (58.1 percent).

You dont really improve until youre pushed so Im glad they did that, he said of drafting Kerrigan. I came in undrafted and found a way to stay in the league and Ill continue to do that, whether its me beating him out at outside linebacker, whether its a combination of moving inside and special teams.

Contact OHalloran at rohalloran@comcastsportsnet.com