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Eagles - YouTube pushed Studebaker up on NFL draft board

ANDY STUDEBAKER had a couple of fairly big things working against him in the weeks leading up to last month's NFL draft.

Wheaton College's Andy Studebaker made his Eagles debut at linebacker during rookie camp this week. (Mike Levin / Inquirer)
Wheaton College's Andy Studebaker made his Eagles debut at linebacker during rookie camp this week. (Mike Levin / Inquirer)Read more

ANDY STUDEBAKER had a couple of fairly big things working against him in the weeks leading up to last month's NFL draft.

One was his football background. He played at Division III Wheaton (Ill.) College, which is a great place to get an Ivy League-caliber education, but not such a great place to prep for a career in football. The last time an NFL team took a player from Wheaton in the draft was 1957 (Fred Brock, Washington Redskins, 17th round).

To make matters worse, Studebaker, who surfaced on the NFL's radar as a junior after recording 17 1/2 sacks and 25 1/2 tackles for losses, missed the second half of his senior season at Wheaton with a Lisfranc fracture in his right foot.

But thanks to the efforts of his forward-thinking agent, Josh Wright, and a spectacular Pro Day workout just 8 days before the draft, the 6-3, 251-pound defensive end/linebacker vaulted back into the NFL's consciousness and was selected by the Eagles in the sixth round with the 203rd overall pick last month. It was the highest a D-3 player has been taken since 2002, when Tennessee selected Wisconsin-Stout cornerback Tony Beckham in the fourth round.

With Studebaker unable to go to the NFL Scouting Combine in late February because he still was recovering from surgery on his foot, Wright, whose wife Carol is an Emmy Award-winning television producer, turned to YouTube to keep his client in NFL teams' thoughts.

The Wrights put several videos of Studebaker on YouTube, including a personal profile and various highlight videos of his dominating play before the injury.

"One of the things I've learned from doing this for 15 years is that teams have guys kind of in packs," Wright said. "They've got comparable grades on them, comparable height, weight and speed numbers, comparable personality grades. It's critical that you give them something that separates your guy from that pack.

"It would be a complete fabrication to say the YouTube videos had any role in exposing Andy to NFL teams, because all 32 teams knew exactly who he was. But I do think it was a tipping factor at the end."

Studebaker, who had a screw inserted in his foot in November to repair the Lisfranc fracture, wasn't given medical clearance to start running again until March 12. Wright put off his client's Pro Day workout until a week before the draft to give him as much time as possible to train. The problem was, most teams already were in the middle of their draft meetings at that point, and there was no guarantee anybody would send a scout to Wheaton to watch Studebaker's workout.

"It was kind of a balancing act between getting a few teams there and also giving him enough time to get as strong as possible," Wright said.

As it turned out, seven teams, including the Eagles, showed up for Studebaker's workout, and he put on quite a show. Ran a 4.60 40, which was faster than all of the draft's top three pass rushers, Chris Long (4.75), Vernon Gholston (4.65) and Derrick Harvey (4.84). In fact, Studebaker put up better numbers than Long, Gholston and Harvey in every significant drill.

"His [workout numbers] were phenomenal," Eagles general manager Tom Heckert said.

"What's amazing is he had only been training for 4 weeks," Wright said. "And he visited six teams in those 4 weeks. That's 12 days out of those 4 weeks he was flying around the country. The last 2 weeks [before his workout] he was gone almost the entire time. He was training in hallways. Working on his starts in the hallways of his hotels."

An hour after Studebaker's workout, Wright's wife posted it on YouTube for the rest of the league's teams to peruse. "Teams were already in their [draft] meetings, and many of them asked [for the tape] to be overnighted to them," Wright said. "I said, 'I'm just going to post it on YouTube and you can see it right away.' They said, 'Cool.' So we shot out the link to everybody within an hour of the workout being over."

Before Studebaker's impressive workout, the Eagles figured they would be able to sign him as a free agent. But once it went on YouTube, they knew that probably wasn't likely.

"We liked him going back to his junior year when he had all those sacks," Heckert said. "It was Division III, but he was so dominant. He was unbelievable.

"When he got hurt, we thought for sure he'd fall through the cracks. Especially if he didn't work out [before the draft]. But once he did and the workout went on YouTube, we knew somebody else was going to take him if we didn't."

The Eagles drafted Studebaker because of his pass-rushing ability. He was strictly a defensive end at Wheaton, but the team had him taking reps at strongside linebacker in the postdraft minicamp and in this week's rookie camp.

"I think physically he can do it," Heckert said of moving Studebaker to linebacker. "If that's a place where he can get more reps, that's fine. On third down, we'll get to see him more at defensive end."

Two years ago, the Eagles made a similar position switch with Chris Gocong, a standout I-AA pass rusher at Cal Poly who now is the team's starting SAM linebacker.

Defensive coordinator Jim Johnson wants to get as many pass rushers on the field as he can, regardless of where they line up. The Eagles have notched more than 40 sacks in a season just once in the last 5 years. Their linebackers have accounted for 7 1/2 sacks in the last 3 years.

"I heard both [end and linebacker] before the draft," Studebaker said. "I was pretty open to either coming in. I'm getting more confident as the days go on. I'm starting to understand the lingo [terminology]. It's like trying to learn a new language with all of the checks and everything. But I feel like I'm picking it up.

"It's going to be something that's going to take hundreds and hundreds of reps and hundreds of hours of film study. Learning by watching. Learning by getting out there. Somebody catches a ball on you where you should have been, next time you know to get there instead of being where you were. I'm learning."

Studebaker also has been getting some work as a long snapper, something he hasn't done since high school. The Eagles are intrigued at the possibility of having a long snapper with 4.6 speed on their punt team.

Studebaker still hasn't regained all of the strength and quickness in his legs that he had before the injury, but said it's slowly returning. Wright estimates that his client probably was only at about 80 percent for his Pro Day workout.

"If he'd been 100 percent and gone to the combine, his numbers would've just been off the charts," the agent said. "Because he's just an incredible physical specimen. He beat every single defensive end at 80 percent."

Studebaker said he has experienced no problems with his foot.

"It feels great," he said.

The screw that was inserted during the surgery hasn't been removed. But Studebaker has been told it's not a big deal.

"Some doctors say they maybe would want to take it out at some point," the rookie said. "But right now, there's not really a window [to do it]. They say it takes about 4 weeks [after it's removed] to let that heal back up before you can start pounding on it again. But I don't have that window now. I'm just going to pray it doesn't break. It's a titanium screw, so it shouldn't." *