ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Ohio State linebacker Chris Worley isn’t trying to do anything out of the ordinary at this week’s East-West Shrine Game.
While Worley, like every participant in this week’s game, wants to put his best foot forward in hopes of being selected in the 2018 NFL draft, he says his way of doing that is by staying true to himself and doing the same things that made him successful during his career as a Buckeye.
"The biggest thing is just I want to be myself," Worley said Monday after his first practice of Shrine Game week. "I’m just trying to be me, as much as I can. And I don’t want a team to like me because of me trying to be something, I want them to like me for who I am. At the end of the day, I just want to show them who I am, and hopefully they fall in love with that."
What Worley showed NFL scouts on Monday was that he could be a vocal leader, making defensive play calls from the middle linebacker position during the East team’s first practice of the week at Shorecrest Preparatory School in St. Petersburg, Fla.
Although Worley spent most of the last two years playing strongside linebacker, where he appeared to be at his best as a Buckeye, he spent time lining up at all three linebacker positions in Ohio State’s 4-3 defense. So when his coaches at this week’s Shrine Game asked him if he would play middle linebacker, Worley didn’t hesitate to respond affirmatively.
"They’ve actually been asking what position you would want to play, all the linebackers, and I told them simply straight up, it don’t really matter for me. If you’re running a 4-3, I can play all three linebacker positions," Worley said. "And ever since then, I’ve been learning the MIKE (linebacker position), but I’ve also been learning all the other linebacker positions too, so it’s been fun so far."
“I don’t want a team to like me because of me trying to be something, I want them to like me for who I am.”– Chris Worley
There’s been a learning curve to start Shrine Game week, Worley said, because the linebackers have been taught some different techniques and plays than what he learned at Ohio State, all the while getting used to playing alongside players – with the exception of fellow Buckeye product Damon Webb, his roommate this week in St. Petersburg – who he’s never played with before.
"There’s just going to be some tweaks and turns from what we do at Ohio State," Worley said. "Setting a front was totally different than how we do it at Ohio State … That’s probably the biggest thing."
At the same time, though, Worley feels fortunate to have spent the past five years learning from current Ohio State linebackers coach Bill Davis – a longtime NFL assistant coach himself – and former Ohio State linebackers coach Luke Fickell, who he believes taught him well to prepare him for success at the next level.
"It’s so similar in so many ways," Worley said. "The drills we did, same drills that we do at Ohio State. Same teaching that we get at Ohio State, I was getting here today, and it’s just amazing to be fortunate to go through all that at Ohio State and just come here, and it’s like riding a bike."
Worley says Fickell forced the linebackers to learn all three positions in the Buckeyes’ defense during his time at Ohio State, which prepared Worley to be ready for anything this week.
"I was fortunate enough to be able, God bless us, to learn a lot of things easy," Worley said. "It’s helped me throughout the years, and Coach Davis has also helped me this year with keeping me ready every week and preparing. Not just for one position, but all three if need be."
Worley has been in Florida all month, training in Orlando with Tom Shaw – who has worked with Tom Brady, multiple No. 1 overall NFL draft picks (Eric Fisher, Jameis Winston) and many others who have gone on to play in the league – to prepare for the Shrine Game and his pre-draft workouts after taking a just few days off following the end of Ohio State’s season.
As he has begun the NFL draft process, Worley says he has also been in touch with many of his former Buckeyes teammates who have since gone on to play in the league, including Marshon Lattimore, Raekwon McMillan, Darron Lee, Curtis Grant, Tyvis Powell and Cardale Jones.
Monday’s practice might have been Worley’s first practice in five years that wasn’t an Ohio State football practice, but he said it didn’t feel weird; to the contrary, Worley – who was wearing plenty of Ohio State gear, including the "Land of the Wolves" helmet that the Buckeyes wore against Penn State and Michigan – said it felt just right.
"It actually is a tad bit better," Worley said in comparison to an Ohio State practice. "We out here in sunny Florida, it feels like 2000 scouts out here and it’s an all-star game, but it don’t really feel like it. It feels like sort of an NFL practice, and it kind of feels like where I’m supposed to be."
Worley – who, like he often did for the past five years in Columbus, often found himself lined up against former Buckeyes quarterback J.T. Barrett on Monday – is trying to take the same approach he took to his career at Ohio State, where he finished as a team captain this past season, instead of trying to be something he’s not to impress the NFL scouts watching him this week.
What Worley does want the scouts on hand to see this week, however, is the type of competitor he is.
"I’m going to come out here and compete, show all these teams what I’m capable of doing," Worley said. "Just to show them my competitive spirit, my competitive nature. No matter what I’m asked to do. One-on-ones today, inside drill, team. Just show them the type of player and person I am, and hopefully they fall in love with that."