One of the best stories in college football has made it to the next level.
Former Penn State standout defensive end Carl Nassib was selected by the Cleveland Browns in the third round of the NFL Draft on Friday night. He became the third former Penn State player to be picked in this year’s draft.
I always had dreams of playing in the NFL, as long as I can remember. A lot of people didn’t agree with that, but that didn’t deter me. I kept working my hardest.
Carl Nassib, on getting drafted
Before he got the call, though, Nassib got to the top of Penn State’s depth chart.
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It was a three-year process that started with him just barely earning a walk-on slot as a 6-foot-5, 215-pound defensive end on then-head coach Bill O’Brien’s team.
Many reports of that meeting have said O’Brien could “barely keep a straight face” when Nassib told him that one day, he wanted to be an NFL player.
“And I said to him, ‘Are you kidding me? You’re going to play pro football? You need to be concerned about playing at Penn State, forget pro football,’” O’Brien told Houston reporters last fall. “He proved me wrong. He worked his butt off in the weight room, got stronger and got better and got bigger.”
A few years, a coaching change, 60 pounds and two inches later, the senior defensive end approached then-defensive coordinator Bob Shoop, and urged Shoop to give him a shot. The first glimpse of “the new Nassib” was in Penn State’s 2015 Blue-White Game, and it was after that day that both Shoop and Nassib predicted a breakout year for the latter; so confidently that they decided to start a “Sack Kidney Cancer” charitable initiative through Penn State’s Uplifting Athletes chapter in which fans could donate dollars for sacks throughout the 2015 season.
The rest, of course, is well-known — Nassib soon led the nation with 15 1/2 sacks despite missing two games to injury and forced six fumbles, became an intriguing NFL prospect, earned All-Big Ten and All-American honors and won the Lombardi, Ted Hendricks and LOTT Impact Trophy upon the season’s conclusion.
And then, the call came.
“I always had dreams of playing in the NFL, as long as I can remember,” he said via Browns live stream Friday night. “A lot of people didn’t agree with that, but that didn’t deter me. I kept working my hardest.”
The 6-foot-7, 272-pound Nassib will have to start all over at the bottom of the food chain in the NFL as a rookie fighting for a spot in the rotation behind bigger, more experienced pros.
He’s probably looking forward to that.