Football players spend a limited amount of time on the field. A product of the Collective Bargaining Agreement put into place a few years ago, that on-field time actually makes up a small percentage of an average day for an NFL player.
That has put much more of an emphasis on the classroom side of being a football player, and the successful ones are able to approach the time in front of game film and a white board the same way they would practice time on the field.
That's Paul Worrilow's mindset, and it's what has given him an edge.
Football players don't come out of the Colonial Athletic Association and become leading tacklers on an NFL team as undrafted prospects without something special about them. And while many were trying to pinpoint the work Worrilow did on the field as the reason for his rapid escalation at football's top level, it was really his work behind the scenes in the classroom that planted the seeds for Sunday success.
"Paul is probably one of the best guys that I've been around in terms of being a student of the game" head coach Mike Smith said. "He studies it. He knows it. You saw it from the very beginning in our rookie minicamp (in 2013) when he played all three linebacker positions for us last year."
Worrilow's approach to that study, however, is what really sets him apart. Linebackers coach Glenn Pires is heading into his 19th season coaching in the NFL and he's seen enough to know how young players like Worrilow approach the game — only Worrilow seems to be the exception to the rule.
Pires sees young players focused in the classroom only on their responsibilities. Worrilow pays much more attention to what the offense is doing.
"He takes it to the next level — what veterans do," Pires said. "He knows what they're doing on the other side of the ball. That's the edge that he's put himself in. A young guy, they're all concerned with, 'What's my gap? What do I have to do?' He makes sure that he knows what they're going to do before the ball is snapped, and now he's got instincts and now he's got an edge."
And that instinct he gained in the classroom is how the undrafted Blue Hen recorded 127 team-leading tackles as a rookie. Now, the expectations for Worrilow in his second season are that much higher.
This offseason, he's prepared himself even more for the chance to surpass his first-year marks. He put on some weight in the offseason, thanks to an Olympic-style lifting regimen. He's been present at all offseason training activities, both voluntary and mandatory.
And he's continued to advance the classroom work that earned him his 2013 success.
"He's probably beyond his years in terms of his maturity, his work ethic on how he approaches things," Pires said. "He approaches it like a seven-, eight-year veteran — not like a rookie or a second-year guy. That's to his credit and that's to his background, his parents, the program that he was in. He's beyond his years in that respect."