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Antwan Applewhite: Making the best of a second chance

Discussion in 'Chargers Fan Forum' started by LFEpooh124, Aug 21, 2009.

  1. LFEpooh124

    LFEpooh124 BoltTalker

    Dec 4, 2006
    Making the best of a second chance
    LB Applewhite humbled, hungrier


    For two to three hours a day this past offseason, Chargers linebacker Antwan Applewhite pored over game film from 2008. One day he'd watch all blitz-package plays. The next he might break down his performance over an entire game.

    The time alone in the film room doesn't include the hours he spent with coaches going over more film, or the opportunities he took to pick the brain of the stalwarts at his position, such as Stephen Cooper.

    In all facets — condition, preparation, execution — head coach Norv Turner said Applewhite is showing how badly he wants to be a top-notch player. Funny, because when he first became a Charger in 2007, Applewhite made some wonder if he was anything more than a poser.

    “If you're not a starter, you have to show what you can do on special teams, and I don't think he took it too seriously,” Cooper said.

    Applewhite had little to be brash about when he arrived at that first training camp. He had earned first-team, All-Mountain West Conference honors at San Diego State in his junior year, and then jumped early into the NFL Draft. But nobody picked him, and after the Chargers signed him as a free agent, coaches say Applewhite showed up heavy on attitude and light on professional fundamentals and work ethic.

    That didn't go over well, and Applewhite was cut after camp. He went back home to Los Angeles and for the first 10 weeks of the season worked as a security guard.

    “I was watching on TV these guys who I had been in training camp with,” Applewhite said. “You sit there and say, ‘I can play with those guys.’ It kind of smacks you in the face a little bit when it happens.”

    In late November 2007, the Chargers called and signed him to the practice squad, on which he would toil until early last season. Applewhite returned, humbled and hungrier.

    “I was in a different place,” he said. “I said less and did more.”

    Said Chargers linebackers coach John Pagano: “You saw the difference between his first time seeing (the NFL), being cut and then coming back and basically doing the opposite of what he did before.”

    Applewhite, 23, admits he could have handled some things better, but he says his attitude came from being naturally confident, not cocky.

    “I'm a confident person. Sometimes that can be displayed the wrong way, especially if someone doesn't know you,” he said. “My first year, maybe I should have thought about it a little bit. But it's just the way I've always been. I think now that we're on the same page, (Pagano) knows what kind of player I am.”

    He is a player who, despite being on a team that is deep at linebacker, has forced coaches to recognize his athletic ability and versatility. Promoted from the practice squad to replace the injured Shawne Merriman after the first week of the season in 2008, Applewhite's playing time increased as the weeks wore on. By the end of the season, when the Chargers were having their 4-0 December run, Applewhite was on the field a lot.

    He also made one of the greatest plays of the year on special teams. On the Chargers' desperation, fourth-quarter onside kick against Kansas City in December, Applewhite delivered the jarring blow to Dwayne Bowe, who dropped the ball, and Kassim Osgood recovered it. The Chargers capitalized with the go-ahead touchdown in a victory that saved their playoff hopes.

    “He is one of our most improved players over the last three years, and it's exciting when you see a guy do what he's done,” Turner said.

    With all of the preparation and film work Applewhite did in the offseason, he wanted to have a strong training camp, and he has. In Saturday night's first exhibition game against Seattle, Applewhite pulled down the Chargers' only interception on a deflection by Antoine Cason. He made four tackles, three of which came on passes. Seattle's combined gain on those plays: 7 yards.

    “I was talking to Antwan the other day,” Turner said, “and I said, ‘Isn't it nice to have things slowed down, where you're not in a panic or a rush every time the ball is snapped?’ You can see it in the way he tackles and the way he's covering, the things he did on Saturday night.”

    Nuts 'n' Bolts
    •It appears rookie Louis Vasquez will start at right guard in tomorrow's preseason game in Arizona. Kynan Forney's neck is still bothering him to the point he sat out yesterday's practice, and the Chargers won't mind testing Vasquez after he sat for two weeks with a foot sprain.

    •The Chargers have begun to work on a limited amount of looks and formations they'll use early in the regular season — enough so that yesterday they prohibited outside photography after the first half-hour of practice. That is the regular-season policy, and it will continue through the end of training camp on Aug. 27. Said Norv Turner: “There's some things we're working on that don't need to be recorded.”

    •Outside linebacker Larry English did not work again. The first-round draft pick will miss his second preseason game while his strained hamstring continues to recover.

    •Defensive end Jacques Cesaire (calf) sat again and will also miss a second preseason game.

  2. Zeus

    Zeus BoltTalker

    Nov 21, 2006
    Good article.

    I liked Applewhite ever since he was undrafted, and hoped the Chargers would pick him up.

    He has tons of potential and playing for a team that isn't very good in a division that is overlooked hurt his stock. The mediocre coaching staff didn't help.

    In the end we have two great backups Tucker and Applewhite who can be rotated in. Applewhite isn't as good at rushing the QB, but he is a good special teamer and one of our better LBs against the run and pass.

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