Growing up in Upper Marlboro, Andre Monroe attended the University of Pittsburgh football camp in hopes of earning a scholarship.
Although Monroe impressed the Panthers coaching staff, the St. John's College High School standout was soon informed that he wouldn’t be recruited by them because they had just offered a scholarship to another undersized, aggressive defensive lineman.
That player was Aaron Donald, a future All-American, Outland and Lombardi award winner at Pitt who beat Ravens inside linebacker C.J. Mosley for NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year honors last season with the St. Louis Rams.
“It’s funny because the Pitt coaches told me I performed well and that they loved how I play, but unfortunately they went with Aaron Donald,” Monroe told The Baltimore Sun. “The coaches said there were some similarities between us in terms of size and how we played. It’s good to see somebody with similar size to me do so well in the NFL. People have even said we look a bit alike, too. I guess it’s the hairline and the beard.”
An unconventionally-built defensive lineman at 5 feet 10 and 294 pounds, Monroe leaves Maryland sharing the Terps’ all-time record with Mike Corvino with 24 sacks. Monroe also had 39 career tackles for losses,
Monroe had 20 sacks and 31 1/2 tackles for losses in his past 26 games. He finished his career with just 5 ½ fewer sacks than Donald had at Pitt, 5 ½ sacks more than New York Jets defensive tackle and former NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year Sheldon Richardson had at Missouri, four more sacks than Buffalo Bills Pro Bowl defensive tackle Marcell Dareus had at Alabama and the same number of sacks that Miami Dolphins star defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh recorded at Nebraska.
Monroe had four more sacks than top-ranked defensive tackle Leonard Williams had at USC.
“That’s something my father instilled in me,” Monroe said. “He always told me, ‘You’ve got to be a playmaker.’ That’s just my style.”
A second-team All-Big Ten Conference selection who had 56 tackles, including 12 for losses, and 9 ½ sacks last season for the Terps, Monroe had six tackles and a half-sack while competing against Iowa offensive tackle Brandon Scherff last season. Scherff is a projected first-round NFL draft pick.
Although undersized, Monroe regularly beat much larger blockers with his quickness, strength and moves. Monroe would establish position with a powerful punch and then either spin around or run through offensive linemen, as shown in this highlight tape.
“Everyone talks about the trenches being all about leverage,” Monroe said. “Given my height, I automatically have natural leverage. The offensive linemen have to lower their pad level to get down to my level. They lose power and speed doing that. I take advantage of that. I’m short and powerful and fast and I give a lot of guys headaches.”
Despite all of his accomplishments and a strong Pro Day workout during which he bench pressed 225 pounds 29 times, ran the 40-yard dash in 4.88 seconds, had a 29 ½ inch vertical leap, a 9-5 broad jump, a 4.41 20-yard shuttle and a 7.66 three-cone drill, Monroe is aware his height is an obstacle for him to overcome with NFL scouts.
Monroe would ideally be at least a few inches taller, like Donald, who’s listed at 6 feet 1, 285 pounds on the Rams’ roster and had nine sacks and two forced fumbles last season.
Hearing that he’s too short or too small is something that has provided Monroe with motivation ever since his days at St. John’s in Washington, D.C., where he was a two-star recruit despite having 61 tackles, including 18 for losses, and being named first-team All-Met as a senior.
“It definitely has always motivated me and been a chip on my shoulder,” Monroe said. “I use that in my playing style. Especially if people tell me I’m too short, that has always fueled my fire. I’ve been hearing that all my life that, ‘You’re too short, you’re too small.’ My game speaks for itself.
“I use it for extra fuel when I see someone 6-7, 300 pounds. I try to chop them down to size. It’s all about the heart. There are guys who automatically fall into an intimidation factor when they see someone bigger than them, but that doesn’t bother me at all. When people say I’m too short, they forget I’m a grown man. I’m not a little boy playing against grown men.”
During the Terps’ Pro Day in College Park, Monroe made it a special point to introduce himself to New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick.
Belichick greeted Monroe warmly and complimented him on his effort and they talked about Patriots defensive tackle Joe Vellano, a former Terps standout.
“It was a real surreal moment to meet Bill Belichick,” Monroe said. “I didn’t even know he was there at first. I went over and he was really cool. He had nothing but nice words to say.
“I could definitely see myself with the Patriots. I would love to play for an organization like that. I would love to play for any organization willing to take a chance on me as a player and a person.”
Monroe has been invited to attend the Washington Redskins’ local prospect day Wednesday. He’s also drawn interest from several other NFL teams who have been calling his agent, Tom Santanello.
"The thing with Andre is it has to be that one team that wants to give him that opportunity," Maryland coach Randy Edsall said. "Whoever gives him an opportunity, they'll get somebody who's worked real hard and has tremendous quickness and a tremendous first step and somebody who loves the game with a lot of passion."
The son of a Baltimore City police officer, Monroe has built a reputation as a high-character individual. Monroe graduated from Maryland with a degree in American Studies.
“I owe it all to everyone I’ve encountered throughout my life,” Monroe said. “I’ve learned from everything, and my ability to learn has molded me and shaped me into the person I am today.”
Monroe said he’d like to own a music studio when he’s done playing football.
“Music is something I’ve always been interested in,” Monroe said. “I used to play instruments in elementary school. I played the tuba, the drums and trombone. I had to choose between practicing football or practicing music. I chose football, and the rest is history."