Harold Landry made a choice this past summer. He decided to stay on the Boston College campus to work out harder than he ever had, with a crucial junior season coming up.
He was up at 6 a.m. working out. Then in the afternoon he would get on the practice field and do more work. He watched more tape. He took better care of himself. A preseason knee injury might have slowed down his start, but it did not hinder his overall performance.
Armed with a goal to reach 13 sacks this season, Landry ended up with 15 to set a new single-season school record and tie Florida State defensive end DeMarcus Walker for the national lead headed into bowl season. A game against Maryland in the Quick Lane Bowl awaits next Monday, and then a decision about whether to enter the NFL draft.
“This offseason was the hardest offseason I’ve worked,” Landry said in a recent phone conversation. “You have to do it every day and instead of going out there saying you were out there for two hours, you’ve got to put in good work so you’re confident in the work you put in. That’s why I’ve been so confident in my play this year, because I know I prepared as hard as I could for this season. I knew I’d be ready for whatever came my way.”
Landry credits not only the extra work he put in but the addition of veteran defensive line coach Paul Pasqualoni, in his first year on staff. Pasqualoni not only taught him better technique, he taught him how to study and understand nuances and tendencies in the way linemen and offenses line up.
There also were lessons about hand placement in the run game, how to use his whole body to set an edge and as a pass-rusher, the importance of getting off the ball and attacking the set line rather than trying to run around guys. In addition to his sacks, Landry also leads the nation with seven forced fumbles.
“He just pushes me so hard,” Landry said about Pasqualoni. “He’s the hardest coach who’s ever pushed me this way. He knows the potential I have and he doesn’t let me settle for anything less than being great. If I do one thing wrong he lets me know and the way he teaches, he makes sure that I know the point he’s trying to get across. He doesn’t yell. He develops his players and the way he’s developed me has been awesome. He’s taught me so much about the game from my position and it’s helped me tremendously.”
Landry went into the final regular-season game against Wake Forest with 12 sacks, one off the goal he set for himself. He also saw Florida State's Walker was with him stride for stride for the national sacks lead.
That double shot of motivation drove Landry. He ended up with three sacks and 4.5 tackles for loss in the 17-14 Boston College victory, clinching a bowl berth for the Eagles. Once the bowl game is over, Landry will sit down and decide whether to return to school or enter the NFL draft. He sent away to the NFL draft advisory board for an evaluation.
He isn’t leaning one way or another right now. The bowl game remains the focus, where Landry would love nothing more than to come away with the win -- and as the nation’s sack leader for 2016.
“In this game I’m just going to watch film and try to get Maryland’s tendencies and I’m going to go out there and play as hard as I can,” Landry said. “I’m pretty confident that I can get some stuff done against them, and if I come out the nation’s leader in sacks, then God bless.”