The Road to the NFL: Ricky Sapp

By Joe Fortenbaugh and Wes Bunting:

Clemson defensive end Ricky Sapp knows what it’s like to battle.

Whether it's coming back from a torn ACL he suffered in 2008 or smashing heads with top-ten draft picks Andre Smith and Eugene Monroe, the 23-year-old Sapp has been through a gauntlet of adversity on his journey to the professional level.

The former ACC standout spoke with the National Football Post this week about what his life has been like leading up to April’s draft.

For starters, the 6-4, 252-pound Sapp has had to answer a lot of questions about the status of his knee — the one he blew out in a 13-3 win at Virginia on Nov. 22, 2008.

The same knee he played on in 2009 when he led the Tigers in tackles for loss (15) and sacks (5).

“I played my whole season with my knee being about 60 percent strength-wise,” Sapp told us. “I really should have sat out maybe four games during the season and done some more rehab. But, you know, after the season I got some really good rehab done. I trained in Florida, got my knee strong and got it feeling like my old self.”

If there was any doubt as to what type of shape Sapp’s knee is in when it comes to his straight-line speed, he put that to rest in Indianapolis at last month’s combine by running a 4.66 40-yard-dash — one of the best times posted by a defensive lineman.

“Right now, my knee is 100 percent," he said. "I’m feeling good and I’m feeling like I got it back so I’m just looking forward to the season right now.”

As Sapp tries his best to prove he’s physically ready to be a dominant pass-rusher at the next level, there’s something else his critics should be evaluating.

The impact he had during his time at Clemson.

In the four years Sapp played for the Tigers (2006-2009), Clemson ranked in the top 25 nationally in total defense and scoring defense.

“Every year I was blessed to have great coaches and great teammates. I think one thing we prided ourselves on going into camp every summer was having a great defense.”

In four weeks, we’ll find out the next defense that Ricky Sapp will impact when the NFL draft kicks off in New York on April 22.

Follow us on Twitter: @JoeFortenbaugh @WesBunting

Click HERE to check out "The Road to the NFL: Jared Odrick"

Click HERE to check out "The Road to the NFL: Jeremy Williams"

Click HERE to check out "The Road to the NFL: Mardy Gilyard"

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