Wexell: Coming around on Ziggy

Ziggy Hood (Missouri Athletics)

Jim Wexell is beginning to share some of the enthusiasm over the Steelers' selection of defensive end Ziggy Hood in the first round of the draft. Tomorrow, Wexell will rummage through the rest of the picks.

You can't help but take these draft prospects on as one of your own sometimes.

If you follow this stuff as seriously as I do, you're bound to become a proud papa. Scouts do it all the time.

And the earlier you take these prospects on, the less fanfare those prospects have at the time, and the more criticism you take when you're the only one who agrees with yourself about this prospect, the more prouder the papa.

That was my son the Bills drafted. Yes, Tom Modrak stabbed me in the heart by picking center-guard Eric Wood four spots before the Steelers' turn.

Liked him the first time I saw him. The Steelers had Wood ranked No. 12. They had Max Unger No. 15. Where they had eventual pick Ziggy Hood has not yet been learned by the media. He was at worst No. 14. And that shocked me. I'd watched him play and was unimpressed. Until I sat down with Ziggy's "Proud Papa," Steelers D-line coach John Mitchell.

"He is the guy that I wanted from day one," Mitchell said.

I'm quite partial to Mitchell's advisements, but I'd seen the legendary Ziggy spin move. Maybe it's not quite legendary, but I saw it – on tape and live at the Senior Bowl – and it made him stand out there. Very un-Steeler like.

"You won't see that again," beamed Mitch.

Just never figured him for a Steeler, though. Figured he'd be better off with the Colts, who just get after the quarterback. Go ahead and use that spin move with Willie Parker sprinting up the middle with a draw.

Yet, it appears I was wrong about Ziggy Hood. Mitchell told me before the draft that he could coach him into a Steelers-style 3-4 end. What that basically means is that Ziggy will not only hold the point, he'll keep his mouth shut about Harrison getting all the sacks.

Ziggy's strong. He benched a lot of weight a lot of times. And he can run. You can see that on tape. It's just that Ziggy, for all his weight room strength, doesn't appear too stout against the run. He just seemed – in the three TV games I saw – that he's a gap-shooting inside rusher in an untamed football conference. That's what the combination of my eyes and my brain told me. And, really, since he's not 6-5, he's not Steelers-size, either.

"I wouldn't necessarily agree with that," said Mike Tomlin. "This is a 6-3, 300-pound man. Not many of those body types. He was one of the few. We're very comfortable with his capability to play the five-technique in a 3-4 defense."

It's obvious that Tomlin likes Hood, and so it's easy for me to get behind this. Tomlin has earned his stripes.

Kevin Colbert likes him, too. "He's a special guy; he really is," the normally non-excitable personnel director said. "He was just somebody we felt good about from the first time we scouted him."

That's the second guy to tell me that in one day, so I'm becoming a bit excited about what these pro coaches can do with a quick, flashy, and strong defensive lineman who might just be in need of some good coaching. These guys rave about Ziggy's character and leadership, too.

"Described by many members of his team as ‘their guy," said Tomlin. "Captain. Leader. Good football player. He'll fit in very quickly from a personality standpoint."

So Ziggy it is. And, really, who else was there after the Bills took my son? I never really liked Max Unger; just the position he played. So, yes, it's easy for me to be swayed.

I'm just a pretend scout who lost a pretend son anyway. I can still be a great pretend uncle.

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