View Full Version : Steelers' top pick is ultra competitive

04-27-2009, 06:54 AM

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Steelers' top pick is ultra competitive

By Scott Brown
Monday, April 27, 2009

He is believed to be the first person from the city of Amarillo, Texas, to get selected in the first round of the NFL Draft.

That distinction apparently isn't Missouri defensive end Evander "Ziggy" Hood's only claim to fame.

"I believe I'm the best in Sonic history of flipping burgers," Hood said Sunday morning before boarding a flight to Pittsburgh.

The Steelers hope Hood tosses around offensive lineman as easily as he flipped beef at the drive-in restaurant he worked during high school. The Steelers made the 6-foot-3, 300-pound Hood the first defensive lineman they have taken with their top pick since 2001.

Said Steelers Coach Mike Tomlin: "There are no holes in him as a player."

The same may also be said as of Hood as a person.

Hood graduated from Missouri in three-and-a-half years, was one of those kids who actually liked going to school, and took the aforementioned job at Sonic to help out at home even though he was plenty busy with football and school.

He steered clear of trouble growing up as well as anyone who might find it and his manners were impeccable to the point that his father, Charles, had to laughingly tell Hood to stop addressing various cousins as "sir."

Hood wouldn't flinch in the face of the most extensive background check. His demeanor, meanwhile, is agreeable enough that it is worth wondering if the guy who refers to himself as a "gentle giant" is a tad too nice to play a position that requires a nasty streak as well as size and strength.

"He's a good kid," said Craig Kuligowski, Hood's position coach at Missouri, "but get him on the field, and he's very, very competitive. He's the most competitive guy I've ever coached and as tough as they come."

Added Hood: "When the game comes on, I switch on the button and get after it."

It has been that way since he got his start playing flag football in a youth league.

"Lots of parents thought Ziggy was playing too rough," Charles Hood recalled. "(But) he was so excited about getting out there, he wanted to snatch all the flags. If he didn't get all the flags, he didn't think he played a good game."

The competitive streak continued to manifest in high school and particularly during one sequence that Steve Parr, who coached Hood at Palo Duro High School, won't soon forget.

Hood played tight end at Palo Duro, and Parr sometimes used him as a pulling blocker. One game, Parr said, Palo Duro got the ball on its own 5-yard line, and he called a running play.

Hood pulled and wiped out a defensive end and linebacker, escorting the back on a long touchdown run.

"That was just picture perfect," Parr said. "But the next time we got the ball on the 5-yard line, he did the same thing, and we scored two 95-yard touchdowns back to back."

That is how the gentle giant earned the nickname "Big Bully," and those two series gave a glimpse into what kind of player Hood would develop into at Missouri.

Not that the Tigers didn't need a little luck in landing Hood.

Amarillo is in the northern panhandle of Texas, and it isn't the priority stop for college football recruiters as compared to the rest of the talent-rich state. Missouri discovered Hood while they were scouting a quarterback on an opposing team.

"It just so happened I had a standout game," Hood said.

He arrived at Missouri undersized at 255 pounds but needed only a couple of years to get to 300.

Kuligowski said Hood put on "good weight." And whether it was adding extra pounds, going to class or playing the game, Kuligowski said he never had to worry about Hood doing things the right way.

"He's never been a pain in the butt for anything," Kuligowski said. "I use him as an example to other guys. He's a special kid."

Hood's father recalls having to yell at him only one time as a youngster.

That happened after Hood, who was 5-years-old at the time, wandered down to a local grocery store. His mother and father drove around the neighborhood frantically looking for their son when they saw him walking around the corner with ice cream.

Charles Hood laughs now, especially when he recalls seeing little "bow-legged Ziggy" with the ice cream that caused him to stray from the family's backyard.

It may also be worth re-telling in light of what Hood has experienced since the Steelers drafted him with the final pick of the first round.

"I feel like a child going into a candy store right now," Hood said. "I'm still a little overwhelmed."

Hood met with the Steelers last night, and his work begins in earnest Friday when mini camp begins.

"It won't be easy," Steelers defensive line coach John Mitchell said. "We've got some good football players, and it's going to be hard for anyone to come in here and uproot them."

Yet talk to people who have been around him, and it's pretty clear that Hood isn't just anybody.

"He makes you a better team because he makes everyone around him better because of his work ethic and his character," Parr said. "Everything you hear about him is true."

Scott Brown can be reached at sbrown@tribweb.com or 412-481-5432.

04-27-2009, 01:29 PM
Nice read. :applaudit: