If Vernon Gholston were your typical kid leaving college to look for a job, he might have put this on his resume: He beat Michigan's Jake Long, the No. 1 overall pick in this year's NFL draft, for a sack.
That's only part of the reason the 6-foot-4, 258-pound defensive end and linebacker from Ohio State will be chosen pretty quickly in tomorrow's draft. While Long was made the No. 1 pick earlier this week by the Miami Dolphins, some mock drafts have Gholston going right behind him to the St. Louis Rams at No. 2.
But some draft scenarios have Gholston falling to the Ravens at No. 8.
Gholston's sack was one of two Long surrendered during his career in Ann Arbor, one of three Gholston got that day against the Wolverines, and one of a school-record 14 he made as a junior last season.
"That was a big battle for me. I know, going back to the previous year, he was tough competition," Gholston said at the NFL combine in Indianapolis in February. "He kicked back in pass protection, and it was tough for me to get around him. So coming into the game, I really focused on that and learned some new techniques to get better hands on him, and it worked."
That performance against Long certainly helped raise his profile, but it still took time for Gholston to decide whether to forgo his senior year. Asked whether he began thinking about turning pro after the Michigan game, Gholston said, "It was on my mind before then.
"A decision like that isn't something you come to in one day. You kind of play the whole season that way. I knew all along I could have an opportunity like this."
A late bloomer who didn't play organized football until his sophomore year of high school in Detroit, Gholston came to Columbus as a linebacker and was quickly turned into a defensive end. He was used sparingly as a true freshman, but his progress was slowed when he was redshirted as a sophomore after breaking his hand.
In the past two seasons, Gholston's reputation and draft value have skyrocketed.
Gholston is being compared to another former Buckeye, Mike Vrabel of the New England Patriots, because of his versatility. Although Gholston doesn't envision lining up at tight end to catch touchdowns, he can see himself making the Pro Bowl, as Vrabel, whose sack record Gholston broke, did last season.
"That's one of my goals for the future," Gholston said.
If you listen to those who have scouted him, it's not that far-fetched.
"He is tremendously gifted," Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said about Gholston last week. "He is very explosive and strong. He has outstanding pass-rush ability. I believe he had 14 or 15 sacks this year. He had some big games against Wisconsin and Michigan where he looked like a top-level guy."
Gholston realizes he might have to adjust to the scheme of the team that selects him, but he knows what he likes to do on the field.
"I love playing defensive end. I love getting after the quarterback and affecting the game that way," he said.
Just ask Jake Long.
Player: Vernon Gholston
Position: Defensive end-linebacker
Size: 6 feet 4, 258 pounds
College: Ohio State
Career highlights: Broke OSU's single-season sack record with 14; school-record four sacks vs. Wisconsin
Combine: 4.67 in the 40; vertical leap of 35 1/2 inches