Defensive line prospect wows NFL teams By Denis Savage Date: Feb 23, 2005 One player knows more about the Senior Bowl and what it means to be in it than most NFL experts. Already a first-round talent, he made the most of his opportunity to shine during his week in Mobile and looks forward to the next event, the Indianapolis Combines. “I have been playing football since I was 6, so I have watched (the Senior Bowl) for a long time,” LSU defensive end/tackle Marcus Spears said. “Great game. Ninety percent of the players get drafted. It was an honor to play in the game.” And the coaches and scouts in attendance were lining up to talk to the difference-maker. No fewer than 15 teams spoke with Spears during his week in Mobile, including his former coach Nick Saban, now with Miami. Spears admitted there wasn’t much to tell Saban, that he knew everything about him already and it was a time to catch up. His week in Mobile impressed everyone, including draft analysts, and his value increased after a solid showing. Spears was very active along the line, batting a pass in the air and coming down with the interception on one play. He was, coincidentally, the only lineman to net an interception on the week. “There were some flashes that you can’t deny,” Tampa Bay head coach Jon Gruden said just prior to attaching Marcus Spears’ name to the end of the statement. “A star that has shined real bright.” Spears improved as the week went by and showed an ability to create pressure up the field by defeating blocks with superior skills and athleticism. Spears is so versatile that he was named freshman All-SEC as a tight end and played some fullback during that year. He was transformed into a defensive end the following year and contributed 46 tackles, 3.5 tackles for a loss and three sacks. Each subsequent season, those numbers have improved. He went to 49 tackles, 13 for a loss and six sacks as a junior and then had 49 tackles, 17.5 for a loss and nine sacks as a senior. “Not holding blocks up, getting to the ball – penetration,” said Spears. “That is what I do.” Spears played in a 4-3 scheme during his days at LSU but he might be a better fit in the 3-4, depending on who you ask. If the week in Mobile said anything, it was that he could play in any system. Tampa employs the 4-3, although they do allow a little more freedom from their ends. “I have talked to both sides,” Spears said regarding playing in the 3-4 or the 4-3. “It really doesn’t matter. I am ready to strap up and play.” Besides his play on the field, Spears brings high character and leadership qualities with him. In Mobile and the Combines to come, he understands how important it is to put your best foot forward and be yourself. “I think (NFL teams) have to get to know you,” Spears said. “That is a big part of this, giving them an opportunity to talk and see who the guy is under the mask. I think that is probably the most highlighted point of (Senior Bowl week). “They know you can play football or you wouldn’t be here. To see you in the last football venue playing football other than just running drills and seeing how you do in the forty to see how you play, that is what this it is all about.” Practice how you play. The hard work Spears put in during Senior Bowl week will parlay into a top choice in April. History is on his side. Thirty-four former LSU players are in the NFL and flourishing. One more name will be added to that list this April. And it could be any one of 32 teams that add him. "I love (the Tampa Bay) staff. They do a good job. Coach Gruden gives his staff so much respect and everyone has their own job to do. They all come together and talk but everyone is responsible for what they are responsible for. Coaches have a need to feel that my job is being done right by me. It has been great to watch them work. They are tough. They get on you in meetings and point out the things you do wrong but also congratulate you when you do things right. That is what it is all about," Spears said. "You have to just be yourself throughout the process. If you are not, they will find out. Be yourself and use the good things that you have and if you have some bad things, you better let them know about it. I am fortunate not to have any."