Where there's a will, there's a . . .

Being a pro football player—hell, being a top college player—is now a full-time job, so even though my trip to the sprawling football facilities at the Ohio State University is a few weeks before training camp starts, former Buckeyes Will Allen (now the starting free safety for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers) and Mike Doss (starting strong safety for the Indianapolis Colts) are in mid-season form. My goal for the morning is to learn how to make game-changing interceptions (INTs) the way Allen—an aggressive, 24-year-old ball hawk who Tampa expects big things from—does. Doss is here to help teach, and to serve as a receiver for Allen and me to cover. All we need now is someone to play quarterback. "I'll go get Smith,” Allen says. Seconds later, we're joined on the practice field by Troy Smith (above, right), a Heisman contender and star QB for the top-ranked Buckeyes. "There's a great camaraderie here with all the former and current football players,” says Allen. "If you can play here, it speaks measures about you.” Well, I can pretend.

Take it to the house

The stuff we work on focuses on a defensive back's primary pass-defending responsibilities: jamming the receiver close to the line of scrimmage and "jumping” pass patterns, which is when a DB reads a quarterback's eyes in enough time to cut off the receiver's route, steal the pass and head for the end zone. We weren't gonna work on run-stopping without helmets—or knee protection, considering Allen's the guy who famously knocked Willis McGahee out of the 2003 national championship game. Allen says that despite the seemingly random nature with which INTs usually occur, as a DB he is "expected to make interceptions. You may not get a lot of opportunities, but when you do get one, make the play. I practice making interceptions every day by doing catching drills and studying the quarterback.”

Continue reading this story in the October ‘06 issue of KING (#36)