You are 6-foot-5 and 323 pounds, and you've spent virtually every fall Saturday for the last four years protecting smaller teammates from the menacing grasps of snarling defenders.

So you're probably a little surprised to learn you're not mean enough.

That's one of the few knocks against Levi Brown, the soft-spoken offensive tackle from Penn State who, despite his apparent nastiness deficiency, still figures to go very high - perhaps in the top 10 overall - of this weekend's NFL draft.

"Lacks a mean streak," reads the analysis on Brown from NFLDraftCountdown.com, "and may not have that killer instinct."

While it might be true that Brown was never cut out to be football's equivalent of a hockey goon, that assessment will no doubt surprise a lot of vanquished defensive ends in the Big Ten.

"Off the field, Levi's kind of laid-back for a big offensive lineman," said Tamba Hali, the Kansas City Chiefs defensive end who practiced often against Brown when both were at Penn State. "But on it, he's a very, very tough opponent. He's big. He's athletic. And he's smart."

Brown credits those daily bouts with Hali for his development into a player widely viewed as the second-best offensive lineman in this draft, behind only Wisconsin tackle Joe Thomas.

"Tamba was a dominant defensive end, very quick," he said. "[He] has natural strength and has a lot of things that make him successful that helped me."

That development is why Brown is being considered by a number of teams with lofty picks. Among the interested clubs are Detroit (No. 2), Tampa Bay (4), Arizona (5) and Miami (9).

Teams in the second 10 that have been impressed by his combination of intelligence, strength and potential include Pittsburgh (15) and the Giants (20).

The only problem with going in the draft's upper echelon, of course, is that you almost always join a struggling team. Not a problem for Brown, who experienced a wild roller-coaster ride in Happy Valley.

"I'm just ready to play football, whatever jersey it is," he said. "We had a 3-9 and 4-7 season [2004 and 2003] while I was at Penn State. I think I can handle it. If that's the situation I'm put into, I'd just work with the guys and try to make everybody get better."

Scouts say Brown is versatile enough to stay at his left-tackle position or make the move to the right side.

The 23-year-old, who graduated in 31/2 years with a degree in labor relations and then added another one in psychology, agrees that a snarl is an important facet of an offensive tackle's makeup. He also thinks he's got one.

"Being an offensive lineman, you just have to learn attitude," he said.

But what gives Brown more delight than growling at an opponent is manhandling one, as he often did in the 45 games he started for Joe Paterno's Nittany Lions.

"[I love] being able to dominate a guy people say you're not supposed to beat," he said. "You go against a premier defensive end and you take his will away and at the end of the game he shakes your hand and says, 'You got me today.' That's the kind of thing I look forward to."

While scouting experts may question his meanness, few have any problems with the rest of his game.

"Has excellent size with a huge frame and long arms," said NFLDraftCountdown. "A superb athlete with good quickness for his size. Moves well and has nimble feet. Once he is able to lock on it's over. Slides well and can handle speed off the edge. Strong and able to stun with his initial punch. Solid run-blocker who gets a pretty good push. Has 4 years of starting experience versus top competition. Smart, hard working and a leader."

Born in North Carolina but raised in Virginia, Brown was a defensive tackle as a red-shirt freshman. Before the 2003 season, Paterno moved him to the other side of the ball.

He improved rapidly. He was the team's best offensive lineman when it went 12-1 in 2005. Last year, as a co-captain, he was a little less consistent, something he attributed to knee problems.

Though Penn State never revealed the surgery, Brown later acknowledged that he underwent an arthroscopic procedure on his right knee early last season, missing two games. The knee was scrutinized at the NFL Scouting Combine in February and pronounced fit.

"I'm a great athlete and I love to play the game," Brown said. "I have the ability to dominate anybody. Whether or not I'm taken No. 1 [among offensive linemen], I plan on making it to a lot of Pro Bowls in my career."

Hey, they said he was too nice, not too humble.

Contact staff writer Frank Fitzpatrick at 215-854-5068 or ffitzpatrick@phillynews.com.