Larry Webster arrived at Bloomsburg (Pa.) on a basketball scholarship. Now, after switching sports two years ago, the Elkton native is leaving the Division II school as a burgeoning NFL draft prospect.
Teams are intrigued by Webster, 6 feet 6 and a lean 252 pounds, because of his pass rushing potential and athleticism. In two seasons on the football team, he piled up 88 tackles, 26 sacks, 31 tackles for losses, an interception and three forced fumbles. He also caught two touchdowns lining up at tight end and returned a blocked punt for a touchdown.
As the NFL draft approaches in two weeks, Webster has emerged as a late-round sleeper with teams devoting plenty of resources to learn more about the tall, mobile athlete with the frame to add more bulk. The 24-year-old son of retired former Ravens defensive lineman Larry Webster Jr. has visited the Arizona Cardinals, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Detroit Lions and worked out privately for the Dallas Cowboys at his school.
Webster ran the 40-yard dash in 4.58 seconds at the NFL scouting combine in February. Only one defensive end had a faster time than Webster as South Carolina star defensive end Jadeveon Clowney clocked 4.53.
"Larry's an athlete, so anything he does, he excels in," said Webster Jr., who played 11 seasons in the NFL after playing college football at Maryland and is now the head coach at Poly. "I'm not just saying that because he's my son. I'm in awe of what he's capable of on a football field. Larry called me up two years ago and said, 'Dad, I want to go out for the football team.' He hadn't played football since high school. On sheer athletic ability, he broke the single-season sack record.
"I've talked to a lot of scouts and they all say, 'He's raw, but he can be molded and he's only going to get better as he gets bigger and stronger.' The sky's the limit for Larry."
Since joining the football team in the spring of 2012, Webster has put on roughly 17 pounds of muscle. NFL teams have had Webster work out as a tight end, defensive end and outside linebacker this spring.
"I bring a lot to the table with my athletic ability," said Webster, who had a combine meeting with the Ravens. "I'm only going to get better. I can put on more weight and get stronger. My best football is ahead of me. Some teams have asked me as a basketball player if I'm tough. I definitely am, and I love to hit."
Webster started four seasons for the Bloomsburg basketball team, which competes in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference. He accepted a basketball scholarship after being lightly recruited for football out of high school at Elkton.
"I knew football was Larry's first love, but the majority of his offers were for basketball," said Webster Jr., who earned a Super Bowl ring with the Ravens during the 2000 season. "When he got offered that full ride, he couldn't pass that by."
Webster averaged 11.1 points and 7.3 rebounds during his career at Bloomsburg, blocking 175 shots. He was named the PSAC Eastern Division Defensive Player of the Year in 2012.
Once Webster was done playing basketball, he was immediately recruited to join the football team.
"We would see Larry in the hallway and encourage him to play football," said Bloomsburg coach Paul Darragh, whose program produced New Orleans Saints Pro Bowl guard Jahri Evans. "We anticipated with his size and athletic ability that would translate to some degree to be an effective football player.
"The scouts are correct that he has more upside because he hasn't reached his potential yet physically. Scouts have said how hard it is to find a 6-6, 245-pound guy who runs under 4.6 that's coachable. They're intrigued."
Under NCAA rules, Webster had two remaining semesters of eligibility to play another sport after he was done playing basketball. He had 13.5 sacks and 15 tackles for losses in his first season playing football since high school.
"Football came back to me, but it took time," Webster said. "I would say sacking the quarterback is more fun than a slam-dunk. It's always fun to dunk on people, but hitting somebody is even better."
Webster has had the benefit of being advised by his father, who frequently shows him videos of taller NFL defensive linemen such as Green Bay Packers veteran Julius Peppers.
"That's helped me out a lot to watch guys more like you with a similar body type," Webster said. "Watching how they use their hands and move their feet and lower their pad level can help you improve."
The father and son spent all of last summer working together on technique. The lessons made in impact, including a game last September against Kutztown in which Webster routinely beat overmatched offensive tackles for a career-high four sacks.
"Larry's a great listener," Webster Jr. said. "He's heard all of my do's and don'ts on what they expect from him in the NFL. You can see the improvement."
After recording 12.5 sacks and 16 tackles for losses last season, Webster was selected to play in the East-West Shrine Game.
The combine, though, is when awareness of Webster began to increase markedly as he drew praise from NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock.
Webster recorded a 36.5-inch vertical leap and a 10-3 broad jump, tests designed to measure explosiveness. In both, Webster finished second overall behind Clowney.
Clowney excelled in the Southeastern Conference while Webster still has questions to answer after dominating a lower level of college football.
"Larry has the same numbers as Clowney put up, but it was just a different path for him," Webster Jr. said. "The NFL figures with Larry they've got a kid who has the pedigree and will make a name for himself if they're patient with him."
Darragh said NFL teams have projected Webster anywhere from the sixth round or seventh round, or as a priority free agent.
Between now and the draft, Webster's plan is to stay relaxed and patient.
"I'm going with the flow," he said. "I've done everything I can to show what I can do. I'm just working out and staying in shape and waiting for the draft to get here."
Local NFL draft prospects
As the NFL draft approaches, here's a quick-hit look at some of the top prospects with local ties:
Player;School;Position;High School;Draft outlook
Kyle Fuller;Virginia Tech;Cornerback;Mount St. Joseph;1st round
Terrance West;Towson;Running back;Northwestern;3rd round to 5th round
Michael Campanaro;Wake Forest;Wide receiver;River Hill;3rd round to 5th round
Cyrus Kouandijo;Alabama;Offensive tackle;DeMatha;1st round to 2nd round
Ego Ferguson;LSU;Defensive tackle;St. John's Catholic Prep;3rd round
Larry Webster;Bloomsburg (Pa.);Defensive end;Elkton;Late round
Kiero Small;Arkansas;Fullback;Cardinal Gibbons;Late round, free agent
Jordan Love;Towson;Cornerback;Deep Run (Va.);Late round, free agent
Derrell Johnson;East Carolina;Outside linebacker;Cardinal Gibbons;Late round, free agent
Dexter McDougle;Maryland;Cornerback;Stafford (Va.);Late round
Joe Rankin;Morgan State;Cornerback;Seneca Valley;free agent
Louis Young;Georgia Tech;Cornerback;Good Counsel;free agent
Karim Barton;Morgan State;Offensive line;Verdugo Hills (Calif.);free agent
Jerome Couplin;William & Mary;Safety;Bishop McNamara; free agent
Zack Kerr;Delaware;Defensive tackle;Quince Orchard;4th round to 6th round
Travis Hawkins;Delaware;Cornerback;Quince Orchard;Late round ,free agent
Brandon Coleman;Rutgers;Wide receiver;Bishop McNamara;Late round, free agent
—Aaron WilsonCopyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun