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Penn State's Nassib excels while shunning spotlight

BOB COHN
YorkDispatch

Penn State defensive end Carl Nassib stands 6-foot-7, weighs about 275 pounds and tops Division I in sacks (11 1/2), tackles for loss (15 1/2) and forced fumbles (5). Not bad, especially for a nerd.

What? Ask the man himself.

"I am kind of a nerd," Nassib said.

Ask his friends.

"If you ask any of my friends, I'm a big nerd," he said.

So be it. A redshirt senior, Nassib, whose older brother, Ryan, backs up New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning, is a dedicated student with designs on medical school (those plans might be delayed by the NFL). He has a laid-back, wry sense of humor. He wryly describes himself as "hilarious," although the public (especially and including the media) does not always get to see it.

Penn State coach James Franklin calls Nassib "probably more than somewhat quirky," but again, it's more of a private thing. He and his teammates are reluctant to share stories. He does, however, admit to the label, "Crazy Carl," for how his mellow demeanor turns manic on game day.

"I get pretty passionate and into it, or other euphemisms I won't use," he said.

Major transformation: Nassib said his newfound stay in the spotlight is "getting a little bit easier," but added, "I would just rather pass the torch to other people that I think are better at that than I."

That's admirable, but too bad, nerd. Grab that torch and hold tight. It's yours for now, as befitting such a startling, Hollywood-like transformation: Skinny (215 pounds), obscure, non-recruited walk-on morphs into quarterback-killing machine! Nassib never started a high school football game, much less a college game, until the opener against Temple.

All of this leaves him decidedly unimpressed.

"Any success that I have is chalked up to my teammates and my coaches, and it's been a privilege playing with this team," he said. "You know, the 2015 team will never be together again after this year, so we're going to make the most of it."

After Nassib played well in limited action last season, Franklin and defensive coordinator Bob Shoop started talking him up during the spring. He started with 10 tackles, including a sack, against Temple, a bright spot in a 27-10 loss. He has at least one sack in each of the seven games.

"His high motor and tenacity to get to the ball are unmatched," said defensive tackle Anthony Zettel who, unlike Nassib, entered the season amid considerable hype. "Last year, he added 25 pounds, and that took him to another level. It made him impossible to be blocked. I knew he'd have a killer year and put our team in a position to win."

Long arms and quickness: Nassib's primary tools are his long arms and quickness (he was much better at basketball in high school), complementing a relentless drive, intelligence and bulk and strength accumulated in the weight room, all fueled by endless portions of chicken and rice from his favorite chain restaurant.

Franklin calls Nassib "a guy who kept kind of pounding away with a sledgehammer on a stone with very little success and kept pounding and pounding and pounding started to create some fractures."

Nassib got a scholarship in 2013 from then-coach Bill O'Brien but still considers himself a walk-on. He would embrace being "a role model for hard work, and especially for walk-ons because it is difficult, and it's hard to see where all this hard work is going when you don't see results for four or five years," he said.

"That would be awesome."