It's All Adding Up for Sidbury University of Richmond Defensive End's NFL Draft Stock Is Rising Lawrence Sidbury, a defensive end from the University of Richmond by way of Oxon Hill, impressed NFL scouts with his 40-yard dash. (By Scott Boehm -- Getty Images) TOOLBOX Resize Print E-mail Yahoo! BuzzSave/Share + Share this Article: Who's Blogging» Links to this article By Les Carpenter Washington Post Staff Writer Tuesday, April 21, 2009 RICHMOND -- It wasn't long before the new math tutor at John Marshall High School started attracting attention. And not because he was bigger than the teachers or that he carried around a gallon of water or that on occasion, when things got slow, he dropped to his stomach and began doing push-ups. This Story It's All Adding Up for Sidbury Defensive End, or Linebacker? NFL Draft | Defensive Linemen: NFL Draft Preview: Defensive Linemen Neither did Lawrence Sidbury Jr. let anyone know he was a football player at the University of Richmond and that it was likely he would play in the NFL. It would take some time for those facts to emerge. He never was much of one for talking about himself. Instead, math teacher Priscilla Wright remembered something else entirely. "He was really smart," she said. "Really, really smart." Not a lot was expected of the defensive end from Cheltenham, who was hired two years ago to assist teachers in some of the more challenging classes and to provide individual support to students needing to pass the state's annual Standards of Learning exam. He was a college student, after all, going into some of the city's toughest classrooms. But something amazing happened: It turned out the giant man who did push-ups had a gift for making students listen. His explanations made sense. Their grades improved. "As a teacher you try to find a way to reach all the kids," Wright said. "He comes in and says, 'You need to do this, this and this,' and they are like, 'Oh, okay,' and they get it. He just has a great rapport with the kids." Ask Sidbury about his work with the school, and he smiles and mumbles something about how he never wants to be a teacher. He sits in a chain steakhouse on the west side of town, scouring a menu, mentally calculating the calories in the pile of bread put before him, making sure it will not violate the strict diet he has set for himself for football. Sidbury is one of the biggest surprises in this weekend's NFL draft. Three months ago he might have been a sixth-round pick. Then came the Senior Bowl and a week of practice in which he dazzled NFL coaches and found himself predicted to go in the second round. And yet, he does not speak with wonder. He has been disappointed before, as a senior at Oxon Hill, when few division I-A colleges showed interest in him, leaving him to Richmond in division I-AA. "You can say I have had a chip on my shoulder," he said, scanning the menu. "He's got a huge chip on his shoulder," Richmond Coach Mike London said. But this is the most emotion Sidbury will show. Instead he talks pleasantly, but flatly, about the NFL and the fact he has become a highly sought-after prospect seemingly overnight. This was the lesson of his father Lawrence Sr., a religious man, who always told his son to be humble, to never despair about the lows or gloat over the highs. Still it is hard not to notice Sidbury is suddenly attracting attention, whether in the Richmond schools or the NFL draft meetings. Some of it came last fall as he had 11 1/2 sacks for Richmond in its unexpected march to the division I-AA national championship. Then he had a brilliant week of practice at the Senior Bowl, dominating more accomplished players from elite colleges. But when he went to the NFL combine in February and ran the 40-yard dash in 4.64 seconds, not only the fastest time for a defensive end but also faster than all but three linebackers, the league's scouts and team executives took notice. This Story It's All Adding Up for Sidbury Defensive End, or Linebacker? NFL Draft | Defensive Linemen: NFL Draft Preview: Defensive Linemen "Anybody who can rush the passer like that has value in the NFL," said Matt Williamson, of Scouts Inc. Sidbury's agent has kept him up to date on his prospects, scheduling interviews in places such as Philadelphia, Dallas, Baltimore, St. Louis and Tennessee. Most draft lists have him rated somewhere around 44th overall, which would put him in the first part of the second round, yet he pays little attention. Instead, he continues to live in Richmond, working out every day at the football team's weight room and spending his mornings at John Marshall. Sidbury tutors kids in Algebra I, Geometry and Algebra II. Wright was impressed when she realized he didn't even need the teacher's book for assistance as he helped the students work their way through problems. He'd simply look at the numbers, think for a moment and then begin explaining the process for figuring out a solution. And he'd do it without a calculator. "A lot of the kids would have dropped out or skipped math class every day," Wright said. "But the kids he tutors on an individual basis look forward to math class." Usually Sidbury will spend half of the 90-minute class walking around the room as the teacher stands in front explaining the day's lesson. He stops at the desks of the children struggling to keep up, softly explaining the concepts of each problem. After about 45 minutes, he will pull out the students who still don't grasp the material for extra instruction off to the side or in another room. "He definitely relates to the 15- to 19-year-old range," Wright said of Sidbury, who is 23. "He makes it interesting for them." But what might have impressed Wright the most was the success he had with those students who were most at risk of not passing the Standards of Learning test, usually a necessary exam for moving on to the next grade. Every student he had been assigned passed the test, she said. This didn't even happen for some of the licensed math teachers, she added. "He should be on one of those NFL commercials where they have players reading books to the kids," she said. She laughed for a moment, realizing Sidbury would probably hate such a thing. "Did he tell you about the computer program he wrote?" she asked. Sidbury, who has a computer science degree from Richmond, designed a program last year that would assess data from a football season and predict what plays a team will call and when. He rolls his eyes when asked about the program, saying it didn't work, that he didn't have a big enough pool of plays from which to draw. But given the way everyone else in the football office talks about the program and raves about its potential, it's hard to tell if the play predictor really didn't work or if he was just trying to deflect attention. This Story It's All Adding Up for Sidbury Defensive End, or Linebacker? NFL Draft | Defensive Linemen: NFL Draft Preview: Defensive Linemen When Mike DeGeorge, the football sports information director, arrived at Richmond in the spring of 2007, he was stunned when the technician from the IT department who came to work on his computer looked a lot like a football player. "Oh, that's Lawrence Sidbury our defensive end," someone said. "Our defensive end is the IT?" DeGeorge remembered asking in amazement. Though much like with teaching, Sidbury isn't sure he wants to be a computer programmer, either. He went to Richmond hoping to take engineering classes, but Richmond didn't offer an engineering degree. Maybe someday he will go back and get one. For now, though, he is focused on football. Even with his high draft status there are questions about his abilities. At 6 feet 2, 266 pounds he is considered small for an NFL defensive end, and Williamson said he is not perceived to be overly strong and probably can play only in pass-rushing situations. "An NFL double-team will crumble him," Williamson said. But good pass rushers are in demand in professional football. In a few days, the NFL will certainly call. And John Marshall High School will lose its favorite math tutor.