Snapshot: Jason Worilds

Jason Worilds (Getty Images)

The Snapshot series of Steelers rookies continues today with a feature on second-round draft pick Jason Worilds.

It's become customary at Heinz Field for the Steelers – as they file off the field past the fans and down the stairs into the locker room – to fling their wristbands into the stands.

Rookie Jason Worilds won't do that. Or, more specifically, he won't throw his blue wristband into the crowd.

It's not a lucky wristband because Worilds doesn't believe in luck. Instead, it's a slice of his sentimental side since it's the wristband of the Carteret Ramblers, Worilds' high school team.

"It's just a way to honor my high school and the kids who went to my high school," said Worilds, the Steelers' rookie outside linebacker. "It's a reminder that if they see me doing it, it's possible for them. I represent them."

Worilds played fullback, linebacker and defensive end at Carteret and led the Ramblers to the state championship game his junior season and the state semifinals his senior season.

What was his primary job?

"My job was to decrease the desire of the opponent's best player to win," he said. "My coach would come up to me before the game, or that week, and he'd say something like, ‘Their best player is their running back.' My job was to decrease that player's desire to win."

Worilds did it so well that he became the first Carteret player ever named to the All-New Jersey first team in consecutive seasons. Not bad for a boy who was too big to play Pop Warner football and instead grew up addicted to the game of soccer.

"I was a pretty good soccer player," he said. "My father was talking to me the other day and we were reminiscing about opening the game up at midfield, and how I used to take shots from midfield and score. We were talking about that. I scored 12 goals in a game once."

But his older cousins always made him play football with them. And when it came time for high school, Jason Adjepong -- as he was known then -- had his mom move into Carteret so he could follow in the footsteps of cousin Marcus Worilds.

Jason and his mom had lived in East Orange, to where they'd moved from Rahway in order for Jason to become a better saxophonist. That dream died, but he so appreciated the lengths to which his mother had gone to accommodate him that he changed his last name to hers – Worilds – his sophomore year at Virginia Tech.

Was he worried about losing the good name and reputation that he'd already forged?

"I did take that into consideration," he said. "I had been Adjepong throughout my high school career. A lot of people knew me as Adjepong. I knew I had made a good name for myself, but like I told you I don't believe in luck so I knew if I continued to work hard I could have the same success with my new last name. I just switched it and continued to do what I do, and fortunately people still recognize me."

He made sure of that at Virginia Tech. After suffering a shoulder injury – "a hiccup," he said – early in his freshman year, he redshirted and came back to play in all 13 games in 2007 and had 2.5 sacks as a reserve defensive end.

Worilds became a starter in 2008 and had his most productive season with eight sacks and 18.5 tackles for loss. However, he separated his other shoulder and then learned he had a torn labrum, so he sat out the Orange Bowl and then the 2009 spring season. He came back, but said his lowered production – 4.5 sacks and 11 tackles for loss – had more to do with opponents' schemes than the shoulder.

"My shoulder didn't bother me at all," he said. "I want to be a great player, and to become great you always have your obstacles, and that was one of mine. So I'm over it and I'm ready to keep going."

Steelers Coach Mike Tomlin called Worilds' performance in the 2009 Chick-fil-A Bowl "his best game of the year," and linebackers coach Keith Butler said Worilds' performance at his Pro Day workout was similar to the one in 2007 that convinced the Steelers to draft LaMarr Woodley.

"When we went to Virginia Tech," Butler said, "he was very, very impressive, maybe more so than Woodley in terms of being able to do things we asked him to do."

And so the Steelers, as they had with Woodley, drafted Worilds in the second round. He reported to minicamp and took personal direction from Woodley and then a day later from James Harrison, whom Worilds will play behind this season.

"When he did come it was like he had been there the entire time," Worilds said of Harrison. "He took me under his wing right away. He answered all my questions, let me get a feel for the defense, told me what was what and what I should be looking for. He was really helpful. I'm looking forward to learning a lot from him."

How did Worilds feel he played at minicamp?

"I'm confident in my ability," he said, "but naturally I didn't know what was going on.

"Mentally it was difficult. You're watching so many different things at once. You almost have to be a quarterback out there from a defensive perspective. Playing at defensive end you don't have to watch so many different things. But I'm getting used to it. I'll be better. I'll be better next time."

Worilds also had the opportunity to get reacquainted with rookie running back Jonathan Dwyer. Legend has it – from those who study tape for a living – that Worilds "earholed Dwyer 20 times" when their two teams met in the Atlantic Coast Conference last season.

Dwyer denied it, saying "he got me once."

"That's a man with pride," Worilds said with a laugh. "He's not going to say I got him 20 times, but the film doesn't lie.

"I had to decrease his desire to win."

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