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Hokies OT DeChristopher enjoys non-Combine buzz

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By Jonah Rosenblum

It reasonably could be assumed that one of the greatest losses inherent in not attending the 2012 NFL Scouting Combine is a lost chance at media exposure. While the 300-plus invitees to Indianapolis got to work out on national television in front of hundreds of NFL officials, players who were snubbed, like OT Blake DeChristopher of Virginia Tech, were forced to wallow in the darkness.

Not quite, according to his agent, Drew Smith, who argues that DeChristopher is actually receiving more attention now than he would have received if he had attended the Combine.

You see, DeChristopher is no Lydon Murtha, according to his agent. Murtha famously "wowed" scouts at the 2009 Combine with his 40-yard dash time of 4.89 seconds, his 4.34-second finish in the 20-yard shuttle and his 35-inch vertical jump.

"One of the guys that I was really excited who got a Combine invite, Lydon Murtha, he's with the Dolphins now, he was a guy who I knew, at 6-7 and 310 pounds, that he was going to run really well," Smith said. "I didn't know that he was going to run one of the fastest 40-times in the history of the NFL Combine for big men, but I knew that he was going to test well."

DeChristopher, on the other hand, would have hardly raised an eyebrow, according to Smith.

"I know that if a Blake DeChristopher went to the Combine, he wasn't going to run the fastest time at the Combine, he wasn't going to run the slowest time," Smith said. "He would have been an offensive lineman that didn't garner a lot of media attention."

As one of 55 offensive linemen in Indianapolis, DeChristopher likely would have faded into the mix.

"An offensive lineman isn't (at a) sexy position and he wasn't going to have a Trent Williams-like workout, he wasn't going to have a Bruce Campbell-like workout," Smith said. "He's going to have a very solid workout, because of that, you're not going to get a lot of media attention for that."

On the other hand, as one of the Combine's highest profile snubs, DeChristopher is suddenly generating a fair amount of attention.

"Now him not being invited, I have guys like you calling me up, from great reputable publications, going, 'Hey, we're interesting in doing a story because this guy wasn't invited to the Combine," Smith said. "Sometimes you get more media coverage when a guy wasn't invited than a guy who was invited to the Combine.

Of course, Combine or no Combine, it's doubtful that DeChristopher could ever fade into the background of any picture. His trademark scraggly hair and pointed beard that dips several inches below his chin have contributed to a mountain man look that will always make the Virginia Tech offensive lineman stand out in a crowd, if not a stat sheet.

DeChristopher said it started as a competition between the Hokies' offensive linemen as to who could grow the best beard, but he also confessed to other motives.

"My girlfriend has always told me that I had a weak chin," DeChristopher said, "so I was like, well, thanks, I guess I'd better grow a beard to cover this bad boy up, so I started growing my beard out and I really liked it and I liked having my hair long."

Meanwhile, the Hokies kept winning and so the beard stuck. Now, it's something that DeChristopher takes great pride in, even allowing a hairdresser to trim it properly two months ago. Of course, the offensive lineman added that he's ready for a quick shave if that's what it takes to play in the NFL.

Although DeChristopher acknowledged that not making the Combine was disappointing, he could probably use the rest. He started 51 games during his college career, including 28 starts over the past two seasons.

"Time is a big friend of the offensive lineman," DeChristopher said. "I get into the cold tub, the hot tub, you know, take some Aleve every once in a while when your body isn't feeling too good."

Not that he minded all the playing time.

"I think of it a lot," DeChristopher said. "I'm very fortunate to have played as many snaps as I have, as many starts for this great university, Virginia Tech, and play with some really great players, made great friends, people I'll be close with the rest of my life."

His senior year was particularly special, as he earned first-team All-ACC honors and the ACC Jacobs Blocking Trophy, after playing more than 900 snaps for the Hokies.

His final campaign in Blacksburg was marked by an increased physicality, highlighted by his 15 knockdowns against Virginia and his 11 knockdowns against Georgia Tech. He graded out to 94 percent against the Yellow Jackets, 91 percent against the Tigers and saved his best for last, earning a 92 percent grade with eight knockdowns in Virginia Tech's ACC Championship loss to Clemson.

For all the knockdowns and grades that he earned in 2011, one number stands out to DeChristopher: zero. That's the number of sacks that the Virginia Tech offensive tackle said he surrendered last season, a figure he takes pride in. He said that he hopes that scouts who look at his game film will notice that aspect of his game.

"It's definitely a lot easier to look at stats on a quarterback and get a better understanding of how he is from his touchdown-to-interception rate and his passing percentage and all that and for offensive linemen, there really aren't any stats," DeChristopher said, "so I guess the most proud thing I had this year is not giving up any sacks. Not giving up any sacks my senior year is one good thing they can look at and see."

DeChristopher said his strong campaign in 2011 began with a slight strain in his left pectoral muscle, an injury that he feared would cause him to miss his entire senior season. When he learned that he would be able to play in 2011 and would be available for the season opener, DeChristopher was grateful to say the least.

"I was really excited and I was like, I need to (play) this year, I really need to play my butt off and just play physical," DeChristopher said. "I've done that all my career but this year I did take a better step to being more physical and finishing drives, finishing blocks, getting people to the ground and that's what I tried to do every game."

Now, after five years as a member of Virginia Tech's football team, DeChristopher said it's not easy to say goodbye.

"Especially the camarederie with my teammates, hanging out with them, playing with them, winning games with them is one of the best feelings and it's something I'm going to miss a lot, that experience has been great for me," he said

But with just a little more than a month remaining until the 2012 NFL draft, DeChristopher doesn't have time to mourn his departure. He's focused on looking forward and hoping for a shot at an NFL career.

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