Ethan Westbrooks is a player who has dominated the opposition for the West Texas A&M football team for the past two years. He lines up as a defensive end but is known for wreaking havoc in the opposing backfield. His statistics are staggering, but they don’t tell the full story.
At 6’3” and 260 pounds, he has been too much to handle for offensive linemen. In 2012 he registered 28 tackles for loss and 19.5 sacks. He also broke up two passes and forced three fumbles. As a senior in 2013, he had 19.5 tackles for loss and seven sacks to go along with five passes defended and a forced fumble.
Westbrooks will make an appearance at the 2014 East West Shrine Game, and he is a player that is going to be very intriguing to watch during the practice sessions. I had the chance to speak to him after his senior season about his experience in college and his thoughts moving forward.
The first thing I wanted to know was what kind of player he was.
“I’m definitely somebody that on the field, I do my best to not only encourage others by the way that I play. I feel our defense is on the low, or even if I need to pick it up, I try to be a person that either does something good to spark the defense or somebody on the defense. It starts at the defensive line, we’re the first line of defense so, it’s on us to get the defense going, when the linebackers and the DB’s see that our energy is high then their energy gets high and then it’s just a whole defense that’s just riding high on energy and we are moving. I bring a shutdown mentality, to get after the quarterback.”
As you can see by watching the video, offensive linemen stand no chance against Westbrooks at times and I asked if he could feel that on the field.
“I definitely feel like there’s a sense of urgency that I’ll be able get off the ball faster than any offensive lineman and I do take that personal especially when I do get blocked whether I’m playing in the inside like a nose tackle or as a three-technique or where I’m on the outside. I get after it type of mentality like on a third down passing play I definitely have this mindset that I’m going to get off faster than any lineman and get to the quarterback. I’m really trying to get to the quarterback with most violent intentions within the rules of football. It’s like a game between me and the offensive line. I try to figure out what they’re going to do and I feel like they really can’t do anything to stop me. I pretty much react off of what they give me.”
I mentioned that it sounded more like he was a technician than a guy who was simply throwing guys around. He said:
“I try not to over think it but definitely, like the first couple of series, I like to see what the offensive lineman gives and hopefully they have a strong point because I feel like if I can just push this dude around then I’m pretty much licking my chops ’cause I know that he can’t really do anything to stop me.”
We talked about his versatility and the ability for his coach to move him inside. He talked a little about the things he looked for that would give him an edge. It shows how much he is thinking about getting into the opposition’s backfield to stop run plays before they got started.
“I’ve never played over the center in college before but being able to just see as soon as he snapped the ball, I felt like there was no chance for him because as soon as he moved I was by him. I was just trying to pick out little things that would give it away, whether it was bending his knees or he would shake the ball a little bit right before he snapped it. I felt like I had all the advantage over him, the only thing he could do I felt was like cut me and even then, I tried to get used when he would cut me and it was just, being that close to the ball put me in a position to be able to make plays, but I definitely felt like I was closer to the ball so it was way easier to make plays like that.”
I asked what his favorite memory as a college football player was.
“The happiest is getting to the playoffs and the semifinals in 2012 playing at West Texas A&M. It was probably the best I’ve ever done or been a part of as a team. I mean, just all the traveling and spending extra time with the teammates. We had fun on the road, whether it was a four-hour flight or a six hour drive, it was just the fun and camaraderie that we had between teammates.”
I asked what he hoped to show at the Shrine Game.
“I’m definitely hoping to show that I’ve improved on run defense, being a defensive end against the run. More discipline as far as not jumping off side, showing better hands and more fundamentals with my hands.” He mentioned that he was looking for general improvements across the board.
We talked about his thoughts on the NFL and what that would mean to him. He mentioned that he wanted the fans of the NFL team that drafts him to know they were getting a “very hungry player that wants to do everything within the team to help the organization as a whole. I want to win and to be a supportive teammate.”
I ended by asking him what football meant to him. He said:
“Football to me it’s life and by that I mean, I played football with Pop Warner in my seventh grade year in junior high and even before then I watched it on TV and that’s what I’ve been wanting to do since I was little was play football in the NFL. I’m psyched that I get an opportunity and chance to do that, it just excites me beyond measure. To me football is just one of those things you love it, I mean, you love it until the game is through with you and that’s all I’m really trying to do is play until the game tells me it doesn’t need me anymore. To me, football is my first love, it’s everything.”
Ethan Westbrooks is one of those physically imposing defensive linemen with violent hands, a truly impressive burst and the ability to penetrate gaps to stop the run while stalking the quarterback at the same time. He is a ferocious football player and the kind of player that I want to see.
To say he is an exciting prospect is an understatement, and it is going to be great to see him up close in Tampa for the 2014 East West Shrine Game.