By Howard Bryant
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, April 30, 2007
For a moment, it appeared that the introduction of LaRon Landry, the 22-year-old safety taken by the Redskins with the sixth overall pick in the first round of Saturday's NFL draft, would be one of the quietest on record.
Coach Joe Gibbs declined to read off Landry's college statistics at first because he had lauded his new player's accomplishments the day before. When Landry stood up to speak, his sentences were short and direct: He had arrived in Washington eagerly and grimly to, as he said, "go to work."
But by the end of the afternoon, Landry's feisty personality began to emerge, and one trait rose above the rest that was likely pleasing to the Redskins' defensive coaches: He likes to hit people.
"I like contact," Landry said. "That was the difference between playing offense and defense. Even when I got older and played quarterback, I always wanted to play on both sides of the ball. I used to play baseball, but it was too slow for me. There just wasn't enough contact in baseball."
The Redskins shopped the sixth pick, but were clearly comfortable drafting Landry, the top-ranked prospect on their draft board. Landry's agent, Joel Siegel, said the process transpired as he expected.
"We thought he was going to go anywhere from the sixth pick to the eighth," Siegel said. "It went like we thought it would."
Defensive backs coach Jerry Gray called Landry special, both in how he reacts to the action in front of him as well as his tackling and poise.
Gibbs likes his toughness. During the afternoon, the coach said he and his defensive coaches wanted the Redskins to return to the physical character of their 2005 playoff team and sought a safety to pair with Sean Taylor. They believe they may have found that player in Landry, whose stories of adolescence usually ended with someone -- either him or a brother -- getting socked in the nose.
When Landry was young, his father Frank purchased a pair of Sugar Ray Leonard boxing gloves so he and his two brothers -- one of whom is Baltimore Ravens safety Dawan Landry -- could resolve their differences.
"I bought them the boxing gloves so they could settle things without them getting hurt, but also to show them," Frank Landry said. "Those gloves are heavy, and they'd put them on, but after a few swings they got tired and didn't want to do it anymore."
Landry warmed to the attention, and his precocious side surfaced. When he was 6 or 7 years old, one of his brothers dared LaRon to jump off of a truck.
"He busted up his teeth and had to go to the dentist," Frank Landry said. "He was always a fearless kid. He cried at that time, but in general, he never did."
Because LaRon was the youngest, Frank Landry -- who also coached LaRon through middle school -- believed he needed to adopt different motivational methods.
"You wanted to make sure that it did not go through one ear and out the other," he said. "I used to give him $5 if got an A, $2 if he got a B. When he played basketball, I'd give him something if he scored a certain amount of points."
Frank Landry told Gibbs that his son could handle tough coaching. Knowing the reputation of Gregg Williams, assistant coach-defense, Gibbs smiled.
"I told him, 'You'll probably get some of that,' " Gibbs said. "He'll probably get called some names."
As a top-10 pick, Landry will challenge for a starting job, but he faces serious competition. Pierson Prioleau, the safety who missed the 2006 season after tearing his left anterior cruciate ligament on last season's opening kickoff against Minnesota, is a favorite among coaches, especially Williams.
Had Prioleau not been injured last season, he would have seen significant time in some of the packages that opposing offenses exploited routinely last year. Gibbs also mentioned seeing Vernon Fox compete next season.
"I think we feel very good about our safety position," Gibbs said.