It's All Adding Up for Sidbury

University of Richmond Defensive End's NFL Draft Stock Is Rising

Lawrence Sidbury, a defensive end from the University of Richmond by way of Oxon Hill, impressed NFL scouts with his 40-yard dash.
Lawrence Sidbury, a defensive end from the University of Richmond by way of Oxon Hill, impressed NFL scouts with his 40-yard dash. (By Scott Boehm -- Getty Images)
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, April 21, 2009

RICHMOND -- It wasn't long before the new math tutor at John Marshall High School started attracting attention. And not because he was bigger than the teachers or that he carried around a gallon of water or that on occasion, when things got slow, he dropped to his stomach and began doing push-ups.

Neither did Lawrence Sidbury Jr. let anyone know he was a football player at the University of Richmond and that it was likely he would play in the NFL. It would take some time for those facts to emerge. He never was much of one for talking about himself.

Instead, math teacher Priscilla Wright remembered something else entirely.

"He was really smart," she said. "Really, really smart."

Not a lot was expected of the defensive end from Cheltenham, who was hired two years ago to assist teachers in some of the more challenging classes and to provide individual support to students needing to pass the state's annual Standards of Learning exam. He was a college student, after all, going into some of the city's toughest classrooms. But something amazing happened: It turned out the giant man who did push-ups had a gift for making students listen. His explanations made sense. Their grades improved.

"As a teacher you try to find a way to reach all the kids," Wright said. "He comes in and says, 'You need to do this, this and this,' and they are like, 'Oh, okay,' and they get it. He just has a great rapport with the kids."

Ask Sidbury about his work with the school, and he smiles and mumbles something about how he never wants to be a teacher. He sits in a chain steakhouse on the west side of town, scouring a menu, mentally calculating the calories in the pile of bread put before him, making sure it will not violate the strict diet he has set for himself for football.

Sidbury is one of the biggest surprises in this weekend's NFL draft. Three months ago he might have been a sixth-round pick. Then came the Senior Bowl and a week of practice in which he dazzled NFL coaches and found himself predicted to go in the second round.

And yet, he does not speak with wonder. He has been disappointed before, as a senior at Oxon Hill, when few division I-A colleges showed interest in him, leaving him to Richmond in division I-AA.

"You can say I have had a chip on my shoulder," he said, scanning the menu.

"He's got a huge chip on his shoulder," Richmond Coach Mike London said.

But this is the most emotion Sidbury will show. Instead he talks pleasantly, but flatly, about the NFL and the fact he has become a highly sought-after prospect seemingly overnight. This was the lesson of his father Lawrence Sr., a religious man, who always told his son to be humble, to never despair about the lows or gloat over the highs.

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