This Q&A took place back at the NFL Combine back in February…
Question: Did you play heavier in 2011 than 2010?
Jerel Worthy: “Yeah, certain games I was 315. Big Ten Championship Game, I was 318.”
Q: Why did you enter the NFL after your junior season?
Worthy: “Man, I would love to be there. I missed out on a great season that the Spartans are about to have, coming up. I would have liked to be there. I have a lot of teammates in the locker room that were near and dear to my heart; coaching staff that’s definitely near and dear to my heart. But I was going through a situation. Both of my parents have a lot of medical issues. My father had a stroke, prior to last season. It was a situation where I felt I had to move on. I have some family obligations, as well as ending the season out on a great note. We went out 11-3, had a good showing in the last few games. Our defense went out on top of the Big Ten. It was a great way to close a chapter. I’m opening up a new chapter and moving on.”
Q: Will Michigan State beat Michigan a fifth consecutive time without you?
Worthy: “Michigan State don’t need me to beat Michigan, man. We have a great defense that’s coming back, minus me and Trent (Robinson), and (Kevin) Pickelman and (Johnathan) Strayhorn, but those guys work hard. They’re working hard right now. Best believe, Michigan, we’ve got the clock up.”
Q: How do you feel about being the first All-American D-tackle from MSU since Bubba Smith?
Worthy: “It’s an honor, just to be mentioned in the same category as a great Spartan, it’s just an honor. I contributed to our defense as a whole; I contributed to Coach ( defensive coordinator Pat) Narduzzi, always putting me in the right position to make plays and just having faith in me over these last three seasons to lead the defense and lead the defensive line, and just becoming a key factor in our defense and our success this year.”
Q: What do you want teams to know about you?
Worthy: “That I’m a great individual off the field, a good character guy. I interact with a lot of people very well, that I’m a hard worker and the consistency knock is something that can easily be erased. By going out here, when we run and go through drills, I just want to prove that I’m ready for the pro level. I came out a year early, but at the same time I’ve grown in maturity and I’ve grown over these last couple of months and I’m ready to showcase my talents.”
Q: Is the knock on you lack of consistency fair?
Worthy: “To an extent, but at the same time it’s just something that you have to work through. It’s something I’ve grown and gotten better at, from the beginning of my season last year to the end of my season. I showed up in a lot of marquee games and laid my imprint on the game, and it was something that I wanted to work at. Getting better at playing against high level competition––Wisconsin, Iowa, Ohio State––with great offensive lines, I wanted to be dominant the whole game. That will only come with hard work in practice and off the field growing in maturity and getting better.”
Q: Why did you wear No. 95 for Notre Dame game as tribute to Bubba Smith?
Worthy: “To be honest, it wasn’t my idea. It was a surprise for me. I come in the locker room every time––road game, home game––looking to wear 99. It was just a thing. I went through my regular routine, I put my jersey on, was fitting myself in the mirror. It’s funny. I went through it, looked myself in the mirror and I’m like, ‘I’m OK.’ Shirt’s tucked in, and I walked away and didn’t even notice that I had it on. One of my players said, ‘Hey man, you changed your number for the game?’ Then I had to go back. It was a great honor, just that our equipment managers and our coaches would allow something like that to happen. Bubba Smith was a great Spartan. Just me having an opportunity to wear his jersey after it’s been retired is just an honor, and I’m humbled.”
Q: Was it was Mark Dantonio’s idea:
Worthy: “I don’t think Coach D knew about it, but when the game came about he signed off on it. He could have easily said, ‘Take it off. Put your regular jersey on.’ He felt it was a great honor. And I tried to go out there against Notre Dame and showcase a little of Bubba Smith style of play, but also implement my own. I think I had a good showing, but unfortunately, we lost.”
Q: Does your explosion at the snap sometimes cause you to take off early?
Worthy: “That’s what some guys say. It’s something I’m trying to get better at, using my attributes in a positive way. I know in the NFL you can’t do that. Jumping offsides will only get you put on the bench. But at the same time, I’m not going to stop doing what I do as far as getting off the ball fast. I’m just going to learn how to enhance it, learn how to get better, staying onsides and learning that when that ball moves, that’s when I have to move. It just comes with preparation, comes with practice and getting a rhythm. In the NFL, you don’t get a rhythm for snap counts. You’ve got great guys, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning coming back. You’ve got a lot of guys that change up the snap count very well. With great preparation, there will be great success.”
Q: Do you rely too much on cadence rather than watching the ball?
Worthy: “To be honest, it comes with a little bit of both. In college football, you don’t have quarterbacks going, ‘Hey, we’re going on three. We’re going on the second color.’ Guys kind of get in a rhythm a little bit. But at the same time, as the ball moves, I was off on it. You can’t do that guessing and be as successful as I was over a long period of time. Guessing, it’s going to burn you a little bit. I was very wise in what I was doing, and it came with great preparation throughout practice, learning tendencies and getting into a rhythm.”
Q: Who are some D-tackles in NFL that you admire and watch?
Worthy: “One is right in Michigan. Ndamukong Suh is a great player to idolize. He’s a great technician, plays hard every play and is going to bring his best. Darnell Dockett was one of the guys I’ve always thought was a great defensive tackle. Explosive, like myself. He always plays with great leverage and brought an attitude to the game that a lot of people can’t match. And Vince Wilfork is just a technician. He’s a big guy, but at the same time his feet are always constantly moving. He’s swift and agile for his size. So I just try to implement a lot of their game, look at their film, learn their techniques, and try to get better.”
Q: Will you get your tattoo removed now? (It’s a Spartan posed victoriously over a Michigan football player)
Worthy: “Not at all. I like my tattoo. We were able to do a lot of great things, and were very successful against Michigan. I’m one of the few Spartans than can say that, and over the last few years it’s been a blessing.”