Small-school rookie OLB Nick DiMarco excited to get shot with Ravens

The Baltimore

When undrafted rookie outside linebacker Nick DiMarco was cut by the New York Jets and NFL teams weren't calling, he began contemplating whether it was time to get a regular job.

DiMarco had begun applying for positions as a certified strength and conditioning specialist until the Ravens called him and invited him to their minicamp last week on a tryout basis.

"I hadn't heard from teams for a while after I was with the Jets" DiMarco said in a telephone interview from his hometown of St. Louis. "I was applying for jobs just in case I didn't hear anything."

Now, the former pass-rushing standout from William Penn University -- an NAIA school in Oskaloosa, Iowa -- is officially back in the NFL after signing a contract with the Ravens following a successful audition.

"I thought it was awesome just to get invited," DiMarco said. "It seemed like everyone there was an NFL veteran. I was the only rookie. So, I was proud to be invited and get a chance. The NFL does a good job of practicing at full speed without pads. It's a lot different, but you get a chance to show them your speed and strength.

"The offensive line still comes off the ball extremely hard. You want to show them how hard you're willing to work. Each day, they had so many plays installed. It was all new to me, but you try to be like a sponge and pick things up."

DiMarco was signed to the 90-man roster when undrafted rookie linebacker Xavius Boyd was waived-injured with a pulled hamstring. DiMarco learned during the final day of minicamp Thursday that he would be signed and invited to attend training camp as long as he passed his physical, which he did.

"I thought I was going to find out in the next day or something," DiMarco said. "They came right up to me on the field after the last practice and told me I was getting signed."

The 6-foot-2, 237-pound native of St. Charles, Mo., was a third-team NAIA All-American selection last season. He had a school-record 13 sacks last season along with 55 tackles, 26 for losses, three forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and three blocked kicks.

William Penn is the same school that produced Jets starting nose guard Damon "Big Snacks" Harrison.

DiMarco played defensive end at William Penn, so he's converting to outside linebacker in the Ravens' 3-4 scheme.

"I'm just a little too small for a defensive end for a 4-3," DiMarco said. "I'm not a true outside linebacker for a 4-3, either. I like the pass rush and I can drop back in pass coverage if needed."

Growing up in the St. Louis area, DiMarco played football, soccer, hockey, basketball and baseball. He was an all-state and all-metro kicker.

DiMarco only weighed 195 pounds when he enrolled at William Penn.

"I had never actually lifted hard in high school," DiMarco said. "I would eat a pop tart for breakfast, ate the school lunch and I never gained weight. I had never set my mind on playing football. I had really bad grades. I concentrated on sports."

DiMarco initially played safety before moving up to the travel squad before bulking up into a defensive end.

"I gained a ton of weight," DiMarco said. "Lifting weights and eating right got the job done."

Having gained roughly 40 pounds since he enrolled in college, DiMarco ran the 40-yard dash in 4.69 seconds after his agent scored him an invite to the Iowa State Pro Day workout. He also bench pressed 225 pounds 29 times and had a 35 1/2 inch vertical leap, a 10-5 1/2 broad jump and a 4.31 short shuttle.

DiMarco is upbeat, but realistic about his chances. Should the NFL not work out for him, he has a career in strength and conditioning awaiting him. That can wait, though, as DiMarco is concentrating on trying to earn a roster spot.

"This is awesome," he said. "I'm excited to keep playing football for a living. It's a great opportunity and I want to do everything I can to impress the Ravens and stick around."

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