What It Feels Like To Sack The Quarterback

Sept. 15, 2003

USC senior defensive end Omar Nazel is one of the bookends of the Trojans' Wild Bunch II. He entered 2003 with 9.5 career sacks and got his first one of the year at Auburn on Aug. 30. After three games, he has four tackles for loss, two sacks and an interception returned for a touchdowns. Below, one of Troy's most colorful players discusses what it feels like to sack a quarterback.....

'The first thing I do is look at the sideline to get a sense of what the call is ... the call determines the type of rush I'm going to have ... Some rushes are run oriented and some are pass oriented, so when it's a pass oriented call that comes, I get excited. Rushing the passer is what I do. I love to sack people. When I get that call, my mind-set automatically switches. I become like a cheetah. When it's a run, I'm like an elephant. But when it's a pass, I'm a cheetah. I know everything I do has to be swift so I can get to the quarterback quicker.

'I check out the protection to see whether I need to get past a lineman by himself or maybe a running back as well. If it's just me and a tackle, I figure that I am hard to beat one-on-one, so I should be able to win. So I try to get a little outside to make him think I'm going to speed up the field. But that's not all I'm really trying to do. In my head, I've mapped out all my moves. The set of the tackle determines what it is I'll actually do, though. Once I get around him and get to the corner, I peek to see where the quarterback is. If the quarterback is already in his drop, then I try to make a U-turn around the tackle. If he hasn't gotten to his drop yet, then I keep going up the field. That's when I'm in the attack zone ... That's when you have to anchor down and get under control. You have to be pinpoint. You may get to the quarterback quick, but if you take the wrong angle you will brush off him.

'Once I've defeated the block, then I'm in business because I know there's only field between me and the quarterback. My natural instinct is to just go and kill him. But that might not be the smartest decision, because a quarterback can make you look dumb. If you come in too fast, all he has to do is make one move and you can go right by him. You have to gather yourself and control your body and that's when you make the tackle. If he tries to spin out, you roll with him.

'A quarterback will try to make his body go limp so you slip off of him. In that case, you have to grab him and roll with him. You have to create momentum, like wrestling an alligator. Sometimes you can get the ball away from him, too. Going for the ball has to do with the control issue. If you are under control you can think, 'Oh, there's the ball,' and get after it. In general, quarterbacks are bad ball handlers ... Linemen should look for the ball, but nine times out of 10 you don't want to miss that sack.

'When you are about to get that sack, it's like checkmate. You've gotten past the pawns and now you threaten him and he can't go anywhere. I think of it like the movie 'Braveheart', too ... It's a battle ... You get past that line of defense to get to that soft underbelly. Making a sack gives me the best sense of accomplishment I could imagine. It's better than the feeling of being in love. Nothing can recreate how successful you feel. You know that everyone saw you defeat that man.

'It's a mixture between a rush, excitement and pure machismo.

'After the sack, there's not much you can do anymore by way of celebrating, but that's fine. Celebrating takes a lot out of you ... It takes a lot of energy. I would like to have that feeling of making a sack more than one time per game ... So I want to hold back that energy and use it on the next play.'

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