Two weeks before National Signing Day in 2006, Pittsburgh coach
The highlight video wasn't much -- a tape passed along to then-Pittsburgh assistant
Allegedly, the kid was a linebacker/defensive end. On the highlight tape, Wannstedt didn't remember a single sack.
It didn't matter. Two plays stuck in the coach's mind.
"I remember watching him run down the line of scrimmage to make a play," Wannstedt said. "Then I remember him turning and chasing someone down from behind. Obviously, that got my interest."
Wannstedt told Partridge to get
But before he could grow into the Big East co-defensive Player of the Year and one of the stars of a team expected to win Pitt's first Big East title since 2004, Romeus had a lot to learn. Most importantly, he had to learn how to start each play.
A few months after Wannstedt watched Romeus run down a ballcarrier on tape, Romeus crouched on Pitt's practice field while his fellow defensive linemen pointed and laughed. "When he first came, he was 220 pounds," said offensive tackle
Romeus, who had played only basketball until his senior year of high school, had no idea football could be so complex. "I thought I could figure it out," he said. "Then I got here." The alignments, calls and on-the-fly adjustments left Romeus' head swimming. But he studied. He tinkered. He learned how best to combine an arsenal of swim, rip and spin techniques to combat any tricks an offensive tackle could devise.
Romeus also grew. The lanky freshman grew into a 270-pound junior who could mix brute strength with blistering speed. Wannstedt had a feeling watching that original tape this might happen. He had coached
"Every one of our defensive ends at Miami and Dallas, they were all guys that were converted linebackers. Our defensive tackles were converted defensive ends. Our outside linebackers were strong safeties. There is a science to this madness."
Romeus figured out the stance, and after a redshirt season, he figured out how to get to the quarterback. As a redshirt freshman, he made 11.5 tackles for loss and was named a freshman All-America. As a sophomore, Romeus made 15.5 tackles for loss (7.5 of them sacks) and was named second-team All-Big East. Last season, his signature game came against Notre Dame when he intercepted
Now, opposing linemen never laugh when they see Romeus in a crouch. "He's low to the ground," Pinkston said, "and he's looking at the ball and he's just breathing smoke."
Pinkston, Romeus' roommate since the players were freshmen, said tackles should quake if they see Romeus lined up wide of the tight end on their side. Linemen use a numerical system to announce where their opponent has lined up; the outside eye of the guard is a three-technique, outside eye of the tackle is a five, and outside eye of the tight end is a seven. When Romeus lines up wide, he appears to come blazing off the sideline. "It seems like a 15 to me," Pinkston said.
Once Romeus begins moving, Pinkston said, little can stop him. "You might think you're helping yourself by kicking out real fast," Pinkston said. "Then, the next thing you know, he takes one or two steps and he's underneath you."
At that point, Romeus can use sheer force or a dazzling array of moves to reach the ballcarrier. Not bad for the last guy in the class who didn't know how to start a basic football play when he arrived at Pitt. "Now," Pinkston said, "he looks like he's been doing it all his life."