Bloomsburg's Webster shifts focus
After special basketball career, athlete revisits football roots
After a heralded career on the hardwood, Bloomsburg’s Larry Webster is bringing his athletic talents to the football field for a one-year stint with the Huskies as he completes his college degree.
When Bloomsburg opens the 2012 season at Stonehill on Aug. 31, it will be the first time Webster will be suited up for an official football game since his high school playing days as a two-sport athlete.
Webster, at 6-7, decided to concentrate on basketball in his first four years at Division II’s Bloomsburg, becoming the school’s all-time blocks leader with 175 and earning Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference East Defensive Player of the Year honors last season.
Despite his success on the court, the native of Hagerstown, Md. missed the action on the football field. With one year of eligibility in another sport remaining, Webster is back on the gridiron after a four-year hiatus.
“There were a couple of times that I saw the football coaches around campus and they would tell me if I ever wanted to come out for football, they would love to have me,” Webster said. “I decided to actually give it a try.”
“We certainly joked about it but I didn’t know how serious his intentions were and if his friends were trying to talk him into it,” Bloomsburg football coach Danny Hale said. “As we researched more and went through winter and spring workouts, he really impressed us. You can’t coach 6-foot-7, and his speed is in the mid-4.5s. That puts you on a lot of charts. If he has any kind of a year, I would think the next level would want to take a look at him.”
Webster played defensive end at Elkton High School – the same position where his father, Larry, Jr., flourished at Maryland. The elder Webster went on to be selected in the third round of the 1992 NFL Draft by the Miami Dolphins, playing 11 seasons with four different teams and winning a Super Bowl championship ring with Baltimore in 2000. The elder Webster, now a high school football coach in Baltimore, has been cautious yet supportive in his son’s pursuit.
“[My father] just wanted to make sure it was what I wanted to do and not just because people were asking me to do it,” Webster said. “He knows how it takes a toll on your body. He said he would help me out any way he could.”
In the offseason, father and son worked on fine-tuning the youngster’s football skills.
“He’s talked to me about things I can work on and helped me out in the summertime with some drills I can use to get back in the flow of things,” Webster said. “He’s also talked to me about what I should be doing to take care of my body in football.”
Until a year ago, Hale did not know about Webster’s football pedigree, but he is thrilled to have the Huskies be the beneficiary of good genes.
“He grasps it,” Hale said. “Not all players have that. They look the part but never get it. He has it. I can’t explain it, but I know what it is when I see it.”
Bloomsburg men’s basketball head coach John Sanow believes Webster’s athletic talents will serve him well on the football field.
“Larry’s a tremendous athlete,” Sanow said. “In basketball, he was really able to run the floor and he was a high-flyer … a dunker … a guy that made a lot of athletic plays in the lane and in transition. I can see his athletic skill set translating to the football field with his ability to run and jump, and he is quick. His length and size are assets on the court, but I think they will also help him on the football field as far being able to get off his feet and knock down balls on the defensive end.”
Hale said Webster will play special teams in addition to defensive end. With his ability to catch, the coaching staff may use him at wide receiver as well.
“He’s the real deal,” Hale said. “He works hard. We thought he would be a third-down pass-rush specialty type of guy, but now he’s proven he can be a run-stopper, too. He’s going to get a lot of snaps.”
Regardless of where or how much Webster plays, for him, the best part of experience is playing again.
“I’m having a lot of fun,” Webster said.