Upshaw is a man on a mission

MOBILE, Ala. – Courtney Upshaw didn’t have to come to the Senior Bowl this week. The University of Alabama graduate is already graded as a first-round pick, but that wasn’t enough for him. The chance to come out and prove his doubters wrong was too good an opportunity to pass up.

“A lot of people are wanting to know if I can bring more to the table,” Upshaw said. “That’s what I want to prove out here, that I can do more.

“A lot of people that I talk with want to know if I have more than a bull rush or anything like that. I just want to show everybody that I can.”

Upshaw said he didn’t look at the trip to Mobile as a gamble, taking a risk at potentially hurting his already firm draft stock. The chance to compete in the Senior Bowl, along with graduating from college and winning another championship, was one of the reasons the All-American linebacker returned to Alabama for his senior year.

“I wanted to compete,” Upshaw said. “I just love football that much. I could have sat down and stayed and kept training. The fact that I had the opportunity … I didn’t want to turn that down.”

Upshaw performed well in front of the NFL scouts in attendance. He used his foot speed to run around bigger tackles and his size to push back tight ends attempting to block the 6-foot-1, 273-pound linebacker/defensive end. That rare blend of strength and quickness is what Alabama coach Nick Saban said will ensure Upshaw’s success at the next level.

“I think he has a fantastic future,” Saban said of Upshaw. “He’s a guy that’s really hard to block, a good pass-rusher. He’s got good size and strength to play outside linebacker and be a designated pass-rusher on third down.

“I think people are always looking for those kind of guys and I think he’s going to fit well with a team, especially a 3-4 team.”

Redskins defensive line coach Jacob Burney worked with Upshaw for the first time on Monday and said he fit in well to the scheme Washington runs, specifically the 3-4 defense.

“He’s got some movement to him,” Burney said. “He’s fun to coach, a good kid, bright eyes. He’s very approachable, coachable. I’m looking forward to the rest of the week.”

Burney praised Upshaw’s versatility and knowledge of what coaches want from him as an edge rusher.

“Obviously there’s some skill there,” Burney said. “He’s very comfortable (changing positions). There wasn’t any problem. I didn’t have to do a ton of drills to make sure he was comfortable with it. He just jumped right in there. That was fun.

“He’s been coached in fundamentals. Obviously, they do a good job on teaching fundamentals down there. That shows. This kid is good, he’s fun to be around.”