After the breakout performance of his very young NFL career last weekend, former Notre Dame DT Derek Landri has been getting some serious props in the national media. Against the Steelers last weekend, Landri recorded a sack, an interception, and the game clinching fumble recovery while filling in for the injured John Henderson.
The playoffs also are about instant heroes. Most of the time, though, we spend so much energy examining every titillating angle of failure — who blew what call, who choked, who cheated, who got busted, who got burned, who’s about to get fired — that we don’t leave time to celebrate the subtle, cool stuff. Like a 288-pound surfing kid from California who double-majored in history and computer applications at Notre Dame snagging his first interception since high school.
No, seriously, I really want you to stop and think about it. Close your office door. Stop Googling Angelina-Jolie-in-training-Rachel Bilson. Put that stupid robotic thing in your ear in your desk drawer. Now, consider this: In a physical matchup in the cold and mud of Heinz Field, the visiting team’s two-time Pro Bowl defensive lineman goes down with a strained hammy in the first quarter, and the rook who replaces him gets the first sack, the first pick and the first fumble recovery of his career (to end the game, no less). And for the icing on the cake, he draws the holding call that ruins the Steelers’ first crucial two-point conversion attempt. Oh wait, I also forgot: he was in the middle of the kickoff return wedge that sprung Maurice Jones-Drew’s team record 96-yard return. That’s what Big Black would call just doing some work, son. “Derek’s doing a great job,” Jags coach Jack Del Rio said in December. “He’s not real big like the other guys we have, and we have some real monsters in there. [But] he is active, super intelligent, very disruptive and a nice change-of-pace guy for us.”
Landri’s biggest fan on the Jags, former high school teammate Maurice Jones-Drew, also had some great things to say about his former and now current teammate.
The real work always begins once your dreams actually come true. And this time, Landri made it only about 9 feet with the ball. There to greet him at the end of the play was Jones-Drew, Landri’s buddy and teammate since their days at national prep powerhouse De La Salle High School in Concord, Cali. Landri started on the offensive and defensive lines and was a Parade All-American, but Jones-Drew mostly remembers the big left tackle who always was begging to get his hand on the ball.
I’ll just let MJD pick it up from here: “At the end of my junior year, he kept coming up to me going, ‘If you break a long run, I’ll be right behind you, right behind you, I promise, and I want you to pitch me the ball so I can take it into the end zone.’
“So, I do break a run, and it’s the longest one of the year, 80-95 yards, and I’m thinking, ‘No way he’ll be back there,’ but there he is, running and chugging along as hard as he can. Now I’m in a bind because I don’t want to give away the longest run in school history. So I ended up keeping it. Boy, he cussed me out and pushed me around pretty good after that. So the next game, I kinda purposefully fumbled the ball to him, and he picked it up, and I really thought he might score with it. But he got tackled at the 1-yard line.