If anybody knows about what it takes to be a top-flight NFL offensive lineman, it's Russ Grimm. A key member of the Washington Redskins' vaunted "Hogs" in the 1980s, he earned three Super Bowl rings and played in four Pro Bowls.
Largely on the basis of what Grimm saw at Penn State's Pro Day on March 22, the Arizona Cardinals made mammoth Nittany Lions offensive tackle Levi Brown their first-round pick in Saturday's NFL draft, the fifth pick overall.
Although that selection didn't meet with widespread approval from Cardinals fans, many of whom preferred Oklahoma running back Adrian Peterson, the Cardinals needed someone to protect young quarterback Matt Leinart and to open some holes in the running game for veteran running back Edgerrin James.
"You test them a little bit, just the mental part," Grimm, the Cardinals' new offensive line coach, said of the torture test he put the 6-5, 328-pound Brown through. "You just want to see how he reacts. Can he take hard coaching? Is he a little sensitive? We were pleased with the results."
Not that Brown - who said Grimm "tried to kick my butt" - is unaccustomed to hard work and being held to a high standard of excellence - and not just by Penn State coach Joe Paterno and offensive line coach Dick Anderson.
"You think Russ is tough? You never met anybody tougher than my dad [Levi Brown Jr., a former Marine]," Brown said. "Whatever he says goes. He always told me that your word is your bond, to just go out there and if you set a goal for yourself, you've got to reach it."
Brown is expected to start immediately, likely filling the left tackle position vacated by the underachieving Leonard Davis, a former first-round pick who was allowed to leave in free agency, signing with the Cowboys.
"I'd be lying if I didn't tell you that I like the physical mentality or the physical nature of the way he plays," first-year Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt said of Brown. "I think it is a good fit for what we are trying to do and what we are trying to establish with the football team."
While Brown, a second-team All-America who generally was considered a top-10 pick, moved up a few spots in a first round that only partially met expectations, an even more acclaimed Penn State teammate, linebacker Paul Posluszny, slid out of the first round and into the second, where he was taken with the 34th pick by the Buffalo Bills.
Posluszny, a two-time winner of the Bednarik Award as the nation's top defensive player, and the Butkus Award winner as the premier linebacker in 2005, had been projected as high as the 15th pick in some mock drafts.
But the Bills, who allowed veteran free-agent linebackers Takeo Spikes (who signed with the Eagles) and London Fletcher to leave for salary-cap reasons, desperately needed a linebacker and they say they're thrilled Posluszny fell to them.
"He's a terrific athlete who has really good instincts for the ball," Bills assistant general manager Tom Modrak, a former director of football operations with the Eagles, said of Posluszny. "I heard some of the things about his slow start to the year and that was true because he had to come back from a serious injury, but he kept getting better and better and that's his will, to do better. We're very excited. He's got a whole lot of talent and a lot of the intangibles that we talk about."
Posluszny - who played middle linebacker for the Nittany Lions last season after spending his first 3 years at outside linebacker - said he doesn't know what plan the Bills have for him.
"Wherever I can get to the football most," said Penn State's all-time leading tackler. "I've played both and feel comfortable playing both and, depending on the scheme, wherever I have the chance to make the most plays is where I want to be."
In addition to Brown, Posluszny and Tony Hunt, who was selected in the third round by the Eagles, two other Penn State players were drafted. Defensive tackle Jay Alford was taken in the third round (No. 81 overall) by the New York Giants and outside linebacker Tim Shaw was chosen in the fifth round (No. 164) by the Carolina Panthers.
The 6-3 Alford, listed at 288 pounds in Penn State's 2006 football media guide, has bulked up to 304, but there are questions as to whether he has the strength and bulk to be effective in the NFL. His strengths are his first-step quickness and ability to penetrate, as evidenced by his 16 1/2 sacks the past two seasons.
The 6-1, 237-pound Shaw began his career at Penn State as a tailback in 2002, then started for 2 years at middle linebacker before shifting to defensive end as a senior. He trained for the NFL Scouting Combine at Disney's Wide World of Sports and caught the eye of many scouts and coaches with a time of 4.42 seconds in the 40-yard dash, 26 repetitions of 225 pounds in the bench press and a standing broad jump of 10 feet, 6 inches.
"I'm so excited to play for the Panthers," he said. "It's just a great situation for me and all I need to do now is go in and prove myself." *