DeOssie '07 following family tradition in becoming elite college linebacker
By Stephen Colelli Brown Daily Herald
Providence, RI (U-WIRE) -- Football runs in the blood of Zak DeOssie '07. The reigning Ivy League Defensive Player of the Week is just carrying on the family tradition.
DeOssie's father, Steve, was a standout linebacker for Boston College in the early 1980s and went on to play for the Dallas Cowboys, New York Jets, New York Giants and New England Patriots in the NFL. Steve DeOssie was a member of the 1990 Giants team that won Super Bowl XXV.
Having a father in the NFL might seem like every little kid's dream, but to DeOssie, his dad just happened to play football.
"It was great growing up with my dad playing football," DeOssie said. "But from my point of view it wasn't that big of a deal. He was always just my dad in my eyes. If you weren't in my situation it might seem pretty cool, and it was, but he was still my dad to me."
DeOssie's football pedigree was only enhanced during the summers he spent working as a ball boy at the New England Patriots' training camp while in high school. At the time, DeOssie was playing quarterback at Phillips Academy, so he got to throw to receivers during practice.
One of DeOssie's favorite memories is when the coaches let him run plays during a practice.
"I actually got a few reps one day during seven-on-seven drills," DeOssie said. "(Backup Patriots quarterback) Rohan Davey had gone home to Mississippi to attend a funeral, and there were only two quarterbacks, Tom Brady and Damon Huard, in camp. Coach (Bill) Belichick told me to take a few snaps, so I ended up throwing some passes with the starting offense during one of the drills."
Training camp taught DeOssie a lot about football. But the most important thing DeOssie learned did not deal with X's and O's. DeOssie said the best part of working at camp was seeing how the athletes focused on their jobs on a daily basis.
"You learn how to act around those guys," DeOssie said. "You learn how to compose yourself on and off the field."
DeOssie's extensive background in the game has led to his success on the field this season. DeOssie played often last season - his first as linebacker - but he has taken a leadership role on the field this season.
"Zak is immense on defense," said Head Coach Phil Estes. "He can make plays on either side of the line of scrimmage, and he hits very well."
DeOssie spent the off-season in the weight room and worked to get acclimated to the Bears' defense. The transition from offense to defense took some getting used to, but it didn't take him too long.
"He played quarterback in high school, but he also played free safety, and he was filling holes like a linebacker," Estes said. "He was 210 pounds, but it was obvious he was going to fill out."
Linebackers are typically the most active players on defense, and DeOssie is not an exception. His team-leading 77 tackles attest to the fact that DeOssie is always around the ball, but it is his four sacks and the five pass deflections that show how much DeOssie does for the Bears.
"I've been blitzing a lot," DeOssie said. "I love coming off the edge, which of the three linebackers is usually my job."
The ability to rush the passer on some plays and drop back into coverage on others is one of the things DeOssie said has helped him become a more complete linebacker this season.
"The transition from blitzing to covering receivers is something that has become easier for me now that I'm more comfortable in the defense," DeOssie said.
It was apparent at last week's game against Yale how much DeOssie's comfort level is increasing; he made one interception and tipped a pass that led to another interception. The former quarterback had Yale quarterback Alvin Cowan wishing DeOssie was still playing under center.
The Bears' playbook for the Yale game also featured a new way to use DeOssie's talent. DeOssie lined up at wideout on third and goal early in the third quarter and barely missed making a touchdown grab.
When asked whether DeOssie might be making a regular appearance on the offensive side of the ball in goal line situations Estes laughed and said, "If (opponents) keep lining up 5'5" corners against him, then yes. We haven't gotten too many opportunities to run it before, but it's something we have worked on."
The versatility that DeOssie has displayed so far this season has combined with his knowledge of the game to make him one of the Ivy League's top linebackers.
"Zak could play any position we put him at and (playing) a lot of snaps (doesn't) wear him out," Estes said. "He's an intelligent football player. He sees something before it happens and makes a break before anyone else."
Given his familiarity with the NFL, the possibility of following his father into the pros has crossed DeOssie's mind.
"It's always a possibility in the back of my mind," DeOssie said. "If it happens it happens, but right now it's too far down the road to worry about. I'm concerned about finishing out the season strong."
(C) 2004 Brown Daily Herald via U-WIRE