Ziggy Hood: 'No holes in this kid'

Ziggy Hood (Jerry Larson/AP)

PITTSBURGH – Evander "Ziggy" Hood -- nicknamed after the cartoon character by his Spanish-speaking grandmother – Saturday became the first defensive lineman chosen in the first round by the Steelers since 2001, and he was excited, to put it mildly.

"I can't describe the feeling," said Hood. "My stomach just tightened up all of a sudden and I choked and I almost fainted. I almost fainted."

The Steelers, of course, were just as excited to land the player.

Missouri DT Evander Hood reacts as he talks on a cellphone with the Pittsburgh Steelers after they selected him 32nd overall in the first round of the NFL Draft. (Michael Norris/AP)

"He's a special guy; he really is," said Director of Football Operations Kevin Colbert. "That was evident the first time we saw this kid. It was exciting to see him available at (pick number) 32. … He's a high quality player and person."

The 6-2 7/8, 300-pound Hood is an athletic tackle who played in Missouri's gap-shooting defensive scheme, but is projected as a 3-4 end with the Steelers.

"I probably have to work more with my hands to develop more punch off the ball," Hood said. "We did a lot of stunting, a lot of blitzing, but over time I will learn and the quickness will get better. I have no problem adjusting."

"Ziggy Hood is a Steelers type of player," said Coach Mike Tomlin, who believes Hood can provide immediate help as an inside rusher in the team's pass-downs defenses. "There are no holes in this kid. He's high character with a hot motor who loves the game. He's been described by his team as their guy. He's a captain and a leader, a good football player."

The Steelers needed depth on the defensive line because Brett Keisel is in the final year of his contract and backup Travis Kirschke will be 35 years old on opening day.

Hood was a tight end at Palo Duro High School in Amarillo, Texas, and once caught two 97-yard touchdown passes in one game. He was also used as a short-yardage fullback, as well as a defensive lineman, where he impressed a Missouri recruiter who was looking at the Lubbock H.S. quarterback.

Hood went to Missouri and had sacks in his first two starts before breaking his foot in the third game and missing the rest of the 2006 season. He came back in 2007 and grew into his role of gap-shooting tackle. He was named captain for the 2008 season and ended his collegiate career with 170 tackles, 22.5 tackles for loss, 15.5 sacks, 8 passes deflected and a blocked kick. Hood graduated in December and at the combine ran the 40 in 4.89 seconds, had 34 reps of 225 pounds, and a vertical jump of 33 inches. But what impressed the Steelers wasn't quantifiable.

"It was more than my ability, speed and strength," Hood said. "I think the way I presented myself; I came off as a good character. And I think I knew a little bit about the game and explained my defense. Really, sitting there and getting talks with Coach Tomlin and the rest of the staff and making myself available to where I can be coached, I have no problem being coached and I don't mind fixing and adjusting to different things."

The Steelers traded their second-round pick (No. 64) to the Denver Broncos for two third-round picks (Nos. 79 and 84). The Steelers also gave up their fourth-round pick (No. 132) in the deal.

"There's a nice group of guys left and we want to get more than one of them," said Colbert.

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