Sports

Andover Sends Second-Ever Alum to NFL

In the fourth round of the NFL Draft last Sunday, Zak DeOssie ’03 made history, becoming the first ever Phillips Academy graduate to be drafted into the NFL. Taken by the New York Giants with the 116th pick overall (the 17th pick in the fourth round), DeOssie will play for a franchise that his father, Steve, called home for five years and helped win a Super Bowl in 1990 during the elder DeOssie’s NFL career. DeOssie, a four-year starter at inside linebacker for Brown, was, most prominently, a quarterback and free safety at Andover but played almost every position on the field at some point during his career. After recording eight tackles in the college Shrine Game and then putting on a terrific showing at the NFL Combine, where he ran a 4.58 second forty-yard dash and benched 26 reps of 225 pounds, DeOssie’s stock went from a sixth to seventh round pick to being projected anywhere from the late third to fifth round. DeOssie spent draft day in Worcester with 25 family members and friends. Before the start of the fourth round, he received a call from the Atlanta Falcons, who told him that they would take him with the tenth pick in the fourth round. However, the Falcons chose another inside linebacker, Stephen Nicholas from the University of South Florida. Disappointed, DeOssie went downstairs to play ping-pong with his Phillips buddy, Tom Kennedy ’03. In the middle of his game, the phone rang again, and DeOssie picked up to hear the words, “How would you like to be a New York Giant?” on the other end. DeOssie said, “When the Falcons didn’t pick me, I was pretty disappointed, but now that I’m going to the Giants, I really can’t be happier. It’s a great situation for me.” Coach Leon Modeste, DeOssie’s football and basketball coach at Andover, said, “I really wasn’t surprised that the Giants took him just based on need. He fills a position that they were weak at going into the draft.” Now that the draft is over, DeOssie can finally get down to work. He will finish his exams at Brown and then report to rookie camp with the Giants on May 11. He projects that he will see immediate playing time on special teams next year and potentially at long snapper, where his skills make him an invaluable asset. Defensively, DeOssie moves from inside linebacker in a 4-4 scheme at Brown to playing the Sam linebacker position in the Giants’ 4-3 defense. Fortunately, the skills and techniques are similar for each position, so DeOssie will easily adapt. DeOssie’s speed—he was the eighth fastest linebacker at the NFL Combine—and size are his two biggest strengths. At 6-4 250 pounds, he is certainly a force to be reckoned with in the middle of the field. DeOssie also believes that his unquenchable intensity and his always-running motor are just as important to making him the type of player he is. What’s more, DeOssie said, “I have been able to succeed because I have tremendous passion for the game. I just love playing football. I always, from when I first started playing, I wanted to be in the NFL.” Coach Modeste said, “I’m really not surprised at Zak’s success. He is always the happiest kid in the world when he plays ball. Some of these other jokers that get drafted, they expect something to come to them. Zak never expects anything; he stays humble and never self-promotes. Every day in practice he just couldn’t wait to start playing.” To be a successful NFL linebacker, DeOssie will need to work on lowering his pad level so offensive linemen cannot get under him and drive him backwards. DeOssie also feels that he must improve his ability to shed blockers because NFL players are so much bigger and faster than those in college, and especially those in the Ivy League. That said, it is hard to imagine that someone with DeOssie’s work ethic and love for the game won’t have an illustrious career. He’s already made history, becoming the first Andover grad to be drafted, but DeOssie has never been one to look backwards at his accomplishments, instead choosing to look towards the future and what it holds in store for him.