Lawrence Sidbury made his name on the football field terrorizing quarterbacks as a defensive end at Richmond and blazing through the NFL combine with an impressive showing. But there’s more to Sidbury than the sacks that propelled Richmond to an FCS National Championship in 2008 and the 40-yard dash times that made him a hot NFL commodity. The defensive end, who the Falcons picked in the fourth round of this year’s draft, ran the 100-yard dash on Richmond’s track team and has been an honor roll student since high school. Sidbury spoke with Times sports editor Brent Holloway recently about his (computer) science project, his time as a math tutor in Richmond high schools and how tall he really is.
QUESTION: I read in the Washington Post that you created a computer program designed to predict what plays an offense would run next. Tell me about that.
ANSWER: Well, I was a computer science major at Richmond and I had an independent study that lasted the whole semester. We got to pick a topic we wanted to use to study data mining, which is a new area in the (information technology) world where people try to gather information and use it to predict things. It’s kind of like an actuary in insurance, just with a computer. There’s all these algorithms and stuff that you can put data through and hopefully it will come up with a conclusion. So I chose to make a play predictor. I really couldn’t think of anything else, and I thought it would be pretty good.
Q: How did it turn out?
A: I didn’t quite finish it. It wasn’t a total success, but I don’t think I actually had enough data. I tried to pull offensive plays in different down-and-distance situations to see which play they ran, different formations, there’s just so much stuff. I really don’t think I had enough.
Q: Are you going to try to come back to it at some point?
A: I think so. I think it might make me a lot of money (laughing).
Q: Well tell me about this tutor job you had in college. Has math always been a subject that’s come easy to you?
A: Yeah, it’s always been pretty easy to me. I like it. I’d rather work with numbers than read or do anything like that. Writing papers is boring, but math has always been easy for me. I only had one class this last semester, so I did (the tutoring) during the day. Outside of just working, I think the big thing for me was just being able to help somebody. Because in Richmond city schools, some of the kids, they just need somebody to talk to, somebody to look up to. So not only was I serving as a tutor to get them ready for the standardized tests they take in Virginia, but just being able to talk to them and show them that somebody in their same age group, is you know, doing something positive. Because sometimes, depending on their situation or the family background some of these kids come from, they just need to see something they can aspire to be. That’s what I tried to do.
Q: Did you like it?
A: Oh yeah, it was fun. Working with kids was pretty good. I don’t know if I could be a teacher, though. But working with youth was a pretty fun experience.
Q: So who’s a coach or teacher or somebody in your life that’s been a mentor or has had a big influence on you?
A: You know man, I’ve had so many people in my life come along and help me out, I really can’t even name just one. Two of my coaches from my high school JV team, John England and Joe Nearing. Plus my two position coaches and my head coach my last year at Richmond. And I’m sure I’m leaving people out. There’s just too many to list. I guess when people see you doing something positive and they see that you’re a pretty good person, man, people are so willing to help you. And you know, I just try to be that every day. Stay humble, work hard. As long as you do the right things and work hard people will go the extra mile for you.
Q: So you’re 6-2, 266…
A: 6-3. I’m 6-foot-3. Y’all need to get out of that 6-2 business (laughing). Goodness gracious, y’all just trying to chop me down.
Q: Ok, so you’re 6-3, 266 pounds, running a 4.64 at the combine. How in the world did you not end up at one of the major college programs?
A: Hold up a second. My unofficial time was a 4.53, so that’s what I’m going to go with, and I’ve been clocked faster than that, but we’ll leave that alone for now. You know, at the end of the day, coming out of high school I felt I did the things that were necessary in order to get a scholarship from a larger school, but sometimes it doesn’t work out like that. And really, I think I used that as motivation to get to this point. A lot of guys that had more (publicity) than I did coming out of high school aren’t getting this opportunity (in the NFL). So I just trying to take advantage of the situation, and I’m glad to be here with the Falcons.