It surprised few when Jerel Worthy decided to forgo his senior season and declare for the 2012 NFL Draft.
Sitting next to MSU head coach Mark Dantonio at the Clara Bell Smith Student-Athlete Academic Center in January, the first team All-American junior defensive tackle came to the decision to leave following MSU’s 33-30 triple overtime victory against Georgia in the 2012 Outback Bowl.
With the April draft quickly approaching, Worthy was one of 24 former Spartan football players eligible for the draft who worked out for scouts and coaches at Wednesday’s MSU Pro Day at Duffy Daugherty Indoor Football Building.
Following his showcase Wednesday, Worthy — who participated in the bench press and a few other drills — said he was more comfortable than he was during the NFL Combine in February, and it showed up in the way he was able to perform.
“Just wanted to show I was explosive and don’t waste movements,” Worthy said. “That’s what the NFL is all about, is not wasting movements and getting to where you got to go as fast as possible. … Just a successful day, and I was happy with it.”
During his time at MSU, Worthy played in 40 career games and recorded 107 tackles, including 27.5 tackles for loss and 12 sacks.
Worthy’s performance on the field earned him first-team All-America honors from several major media outlets and was an All-Big Ten first-team selection (coaches and media).
In his final season with MSU, Worthy played in all 14 games. He finished with a total of 30 tackles — 19 solo and 11 assisted — and had 10.5 tackles for a loss of 42 total yards. He also dished out 3.5 sacks for a total of 28 yards.
According to ESPN NFL Insider Mel Kiper, the 6-foot-3, 303-pound defensive tackle Worthy is rated No. 5 at his position in the draft on the basis of being “dominant, just inconsistent” in his play.
But being on the same side of the ball as him for four seasons, former safety Trenton Robinson said Worthy has been consistent at least in his work ethic.
“I just know his performance is gonna be great,” Robinson said. “He’s been working for it; he works hard all the time. I feel like he ran a faster 40 (yard dash) than he did in the Combine today, so he’s improved on his numbers. … It’s exciting, and I know he’s going to do good.”
As Worthy prepares for his NFL Draft experience, it becomes a luxury to pay attention to former Spartans who have gone through the journey such as Tennessee Titans running back Javon Ringer.
Ringer — who played at MSU from 2005 to 2008 and set the all-time mark for all-purpose yards in program history — said he and Worthy have been close since long before they arrived in East Lansing, and he’s been following Worthy’s road to the NFL.
“(I’ve) pretty much known Jerel since he was little, so I kind of got to watch him grow up and develop,” Ringer said. “It’s just so weird to see him now just from when we was playing Little League together, and now he’s trying out for the NFL and just the looks that he’s getting and the publicity he’s getting and the way he’s going about his business.”
As for where he’ll hear his name called in April’s NFL Draft and where he’s headed, there’s a lot left to be decided for Worthy.
But with the spotlight on arguably one of the program’s most successful defensive players of the past decade, Worthy credits much of his success to the players he played with and the memories they built together.
“Normally the offensive guys and any skill position guys are the guys that get the glory, but it just shows how far our program has come and just how hard we’ve worked as a defensive line and how far and how much we’ve improved as a defense to be able to have me in this position,” Worthy said.
“I just wanted to go out there and play the best football I could, and as I played better, the team played better and we (were) very successful.”
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