By Matt Sugam
Before Scott Vallone hit the practice field at the East-West Shrine Game last month, he was sitting in a meeting room as the coaches were breaking down the position groups. When asked who were defensive ends, only three guys put up their hands.
Vallone turned to the other defensive linemen and saw a bunch of 300-plus pounders. So the undersized defensive tackle raised his hand.
And so began his week playing defensive end.
“That was a little different for me,” Vallone told SNY.tv, adding,”I thought it went well. In one-on-one drills, that’s probably where I did my best work. And did well in the team stuff too.”
More than anything, it demonstrated Vallone’s most important quality. His versatility.
While he mainly played nose tackle in the latter part of his career, Vallone’s NFL worth is at the three-technique. Something he was expected to do exclusively his senior year, but sacrificed himself for the team to play more nose tackle after a season ending injury to Ike Holmes.
But even at the three-tech, he’s not the prototypical size for the position. Which is why he raised his hand in that meeting room at the All-Star game.
Vallone knows he doesn’t he have the speed to play defensive end in a 4-3 defense. But in a pass driven league that has more and more 3-4 defenses popping up, Vallone sees an opportunity to play defensive end in that defense.
And so, Vallone has added eight pounds while training at Bommarito Training Facility in Florida and is up to 280 pounds. Which is right where he wants to be so he doesn’t limit himself to one of the base defenses.
“Trying to get teams to say ‘Well he’s 280 so he can get to 290, ‘or he’s ‘280, let’s try and drop him down to 270’ to stay marketable to all teams,” Vallone said.
Not to mention 280 pounds is a weight that won’t alter the way he plays in either position.
“The goal I kind of have is to not get to a point where I’m too heavy where it changes my game – a game that’s based off of quickness, making plays, being productive in the run game and generating some pressure on the quarterback,” Vallone said. “I didn’t want to be light where they said ‘alright, well he’s a defensive end, but he doesn’t’ have defensive end’s speed, so now what?”
Which is a question Vallone hopes he’s eliminated so he is a viable option for all 32 teams.
“Me and my agent [Drew Smith] both thought it was a good idea to stay in a range where I would be marketable to play 4-3, 3-4 and see where that left me. Show that I’m versatile and see where that left me,” Vallone said. ” I showed some versatility in the East-West Shrine game and hope that a team just wants someone who loves to play the game, plays at a high level and made a lot of plays in his career.”
And as Vallone prepares for Rutgers’ Pro Day on March 13, he has no idea if that team will come calling in the latter part of the draft or after to sign him as an undrafted free agent.
He knows he’s on the fringe of being drafted based on the projections he’s gotten, but he also knows those projections don’t mean much of anything.
And his agent put that into perspective.
“All these teams are going to say nice things about you, but if they really really liked you as much as they say they do they would draft you in the first round,” Vallone said. “So they can say what they like, but when push comes to shove we’ll see what happens.”
And in the end, Vallone is just looking for that one team to give him a chance to live his NFL dreams.
“If I’m an on the border guy, if I’m a priority free agent, or if I’m drafted either or, I’ve done some good things in college. I think one team will fall in love with the fact that I’ve played in so many games, that I never missed a start, was very productive in the run game,” Vallone said. “Maybe the sack numbers weren’t there or maybe the measurables aren’t there in weight and height and what not, but I think somebody is going to fall in love with the football player that I am, and hopefully there’s somebody that does and I can get an opportunity when camp comes around.”