Penn State fans had a lot of questions about Winchester (Va.) John Handley defensive tackle Derek Dowrey when he committed to the Nittany Lions after a standout camp performance in June.
Among the most notable questions, fans wondered just who is Derek Dowrey?
Lions247.com caught up with the 6-foot-2, 300-pound Dowrey last week for an extended interview, and the future Nittany Lion had plenty to say.
The following is a belated edition of our popular series, Q&A with the Nittany Lions' Newest Commitment.
Lions247.com: We haven't spoken much since you committed, what has life been like with your college decision out of the way?
Derek Dowrey: It's definitely a lot of pressure off of me. That's what I had been wanting - I wanted to prove to coaches that I was good enough to earn a scholarship. I've always been watching Penn State so I was wondering if there would still be spots available when I got a chance to show myself, and it pretty much just all ended at once. I got everything I wanted, I was happy and there was just pretty much no pressure after that.
Lions247.com: Can you talk about your decision? How much did you actually think about it?
Derek Dowrey: Coach Johnson, the defensive line coach, he'll be my coach when I get there, he offered me himself. I have been to Penn State so many times. I camped there last year, went to two games, then spring practice. Pretty much after that spring practice I was talking to my parents, we were still on campus and it was still fresh in my mind. Penn State had always been my No. 1, and we all knew the idea that I can't wait around for an offer if I knew what I wanted forever, so I asked my dad, 'What would I do if I got an offer from Penn State, should i commit immediately?' He said that I should. So when he offered, I'd already known that I would accept right away. I didn't have to think about it at the time. I had already thought about it for a long time.
Lions247.com: You made it clear that you wanted Penn State to recruit you, did you grow up a Penn State fan?
Derek Dowrey: Actually not really. When I grew up, when I started getting into football I was a lot lighter and a lot quicker, at least for my age, and I was a running back. I always followed the good running backs. I'm from Virginia, and at the time Virginia Tech had a pair of running backs - Kevin Jones and Lee Suggs - they were 'The Untouchables' at Tech. I started following them and ever since then I've been a Virginia Tech fan. Then things kind of just changed. I liked them as a fan, but that's not the same thing as me liking them as a school. I tried not being biased towards anyone, so when I look at the whole picture, I thought Penn State was the best it for me.
Lions247.com: Can you tell us about your running back background?
Derek Dowrey: Well, what would probably be even worse was that I played quarterback also. But I'll get into that later. In my city's little league program, you can start when you're 9-years old. I was a quick little kid. My dad play running back in college, he was a sprinter in track and a guard in basketball, so he was a little guy. I started out as a little guy, too. I played running back for my little league team in my first year, and the next year I decided I wanted to play some quarterback. I've always been able to throw a ball pretty naturally, so I started thinking I wanted to do that. So the next year, I split time between the two. The next year, you move up and start playing with older guys, and I was starting to get a little bigger and slower. I wasn't playing much, and the next year I went over the weight limit to carry the ball. That was a pretty quick transition. The weight limit to carry the ball was 135, and I passed that and got this big orange 'X' on my helmet that said I wasn't allowed to carry the ball. Even after that, the next year, the weight limit for the entire league was 180 pounds, so I had to cut weight to make the league. So I went from being a little quarterback to as big as I could possibly be.
Lions247.com: Where did you end up at that point?
Derek Dowrey: From the very start I started playing center because other guys couldn't snap. I played some guard, I was pretty much playing everywhere. I played offense and defense, and in middle school we didn't even have a football team. So the sixth and seventh graders play in the city league and eighth graders play freshman football. After that I started playing freshman football. I was kind of chunky and slow at the time, I was pretty much an offensive lineman, I didn't play much defense at all. From where I started getting taller and filling out a little bit. I started getting quicker and then eventually, by my sophomore year, I started playing a lot of defense.
Lions247.com: You had a pretty good season last year with 145 tackles. How do you put up those kind of numbers at that position?
Derek Dowrey: I don't know, really. A lot of what I do is to take up blocks up in my system. We play an odd front, so I'm head up on the nose most of the time. We don't have many looks, so most of the time I'm just in a zero technique right on the center. My job is to take on the center and make them double me with the guard. One of my biggest jobs is to eat up blocks and let the linebackers be unblocked and make some plays. I never wanted to be the guy who did the dirty work and got nothing for it, though, so I guess I just started making plays for myself. I expected that from myself, and they kept on building on itself. I guess I just try to get to the ball as much as possible.
Lions247.com: How about the camp? Penn State was in a good situation at that time with its defensive tackle recruiting. It may have come as a surprise to a lot of people when you and Austin Johnson got offers.
Derek Dowrey: I started the camp thinking that this was my only and last shot to make it to Penn State. When I went to a spring practice, Coach Johnson told me straight up that the chance that I had to make it, because he would know right away, would be at camp. He would know if I was good enough to get a scholarship. All the pressure was on, and I just went out knowing that I had to go all out. I knew I couldn't leave anything out there. I was feeling pretty good. I'd gained some weight this offseason, but a lot of it was muscle, I hope. I got a lot stronger and I was coming in a little heavier, but I felt pretty good about it. I came in and tried to do everything as hard as I could and tried to pick up every little detail he said. Coach Johnson wants players that are going to be coachable and listen to what he says and try what he says, even if they're not good at it at first. He wants the guys that are going to work at it and do what it takes to get better. It really helped that Ollie Ogbu was at the camp and he was demonstrating all of the drills. You could see watching him that he was just so intense with everything that he did. He was grunting, he was going all out, even just demonstrating drills for us That set the tone for me, I just tried to duplicate that as much as I could. I felt like I did pretty well. I tried not to let anything that the coaches said get to me until I heard, 'We're going to offer you a scholarship to Penn State University.' I didn't want to think about it, I just wanted to go prove myself. I couldn't let up until it was over.
Lions247.com: Who did you actually commit to?
Derek Dowrey: It was Coach Johnson. He actually offered me and Austin at the same time. He was saying that he wasn't going to ask us to commit now, he just wanted to let us know that our spots were going to go away eventually. He was saying that there was no rush, he wasn't going to pressure us. When he was done talking, me and Austin stood up and he shook his hand, then Coach Johnson came and shook my hand. I said, 'Coach Johnson I just have one question. Can I commit right now?' I was ready for something like, 'I want you to go home and think about it' or something like that. But he said, are you sure this is what you want to do. I told him that I'd been there plenty of times and it was pretty much Penn State or bust with me. He just opened his arms and said, 'Welcome to the family.' That's when the moment just took over. I lost it and I barely remember what went on with it after that.
Lions247.com: You and Austin are going to be linked together for a long time now. What have you guys talked about and what are your thoughts on that whole situation?
Derek Dowrey: I've heard the stuff that's been on the internet, and I understand it. Me and Austin were two relatively unknown guys that just came out of nowhere when a lot of the fans had their sights on guys with four and five-stars and 50 offers. I can respect that, I can understand. During the camp, I was working with Austin the whole time. We've become friends, we've texted after the camp and stuff like that. I know where I'm at on the football field right now. I can tell you that me and Austin will work on the field. I'm not going to say that I'm better than anybody that Penn State could have gotten to accept for them, I'm just going to say that I'm going to work to be the best player I can be, and I know Austin will, too. I understand where people are coming from when they say they're disappointed about getting us as opposed to other defensive linemen, but I also know that I don't think I'll let them down. I think that I can make it up to them sometime soon.