May 11, 2012

Rookie Bio - Derek Wolfe

Derek J. Wolfe was born February. 24, 1990 in Lisbon, Ohio and is the son of Dennis Wolfe. He is 22 years old and is believed to currently reside with his grandmother, Kim Wolfe. Derek is from a rural town called Negley, Ohio a town which is close to Pennsylvania. His hometown of Negley, Ohio, is 1 mile from Pennsylvania, 10 miles from West Virginia and about 40 minutes from Pittsburgh. Wolfe never was a fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers, and said he can't wait to play Pittsburgh on Sept. 9. He is the first Beaver Local graduate to get drafted and the first Mahoning Valley native selected this year.

Date of birth: (1990-02-24) February 24, 1990 (age 22)
Place of birth: Lisbon, Ohio
Height: 6 ft 5 in (1.96 m) Weight: 295 lb (134 kg), it has been mentioned anywhere from 284 to 300 pounds.

Derek graduated with an Academic Major in Criminal Justice.

Growing up
The Broncos' newest defensive tackle has a story made for the movies. Not quite as extreme as that of Michael Oher, the homeless kid who became an offensive tackle for the Baltimore Ravens and inspired the movie The Blind Side, but pretty close.

Derek Wolfe doesn't remember being homeless, exactly. He does remember staying at various friends' houses growing up in Lisbon, Ohio. The closest he came to family were the sisters of his stepfather, not blood relatives but women who helped out when they could. He remembers one of them providing Christmas presents when he was little.

"I've never met my real father," Wolfe told the Cincinnati Enquirer last summer as he prepared for his senior season at the University of Cincinnati. "I couldn't even tell you his name."

That fact contributed to his estrangement from his mother. "My mom just won't tell me anything about him," he said then. "I guarantee he doesn't even know I exist. I've given my mom chances and chances and chances, but she obviously has some issues.

"I lived with my mother only when she was married to my stepfather. My mother married him when I was only about three months old, but after they got divorced, I moved out and lived with him. My stepfather and I got along well when I was young, and even after he got divorced from my mom, but when he got remarried, that's when everything fell apart."

Wolfe's best friend was a kid named Logan Hoppel. "His family told me if I ever needed a place to stay, I could stay with them."

When he found himself a child on his own, he took the Hoppels up on their offer. For the rest of his childhood, he stayed with various friends. Getting him to adulthood became sort of a community project. He credits "the whole town" for helping raise him as a teenager.

"That's who I was raised by, is my friends," Wolfe told DP Saturday just after his introductory press conference at Dove Valley. "I have great friends. They're like brothers to me. Anytime I needed advice or needed some structure, they gave it to me. I can't pick one out. I have a lot of friends, a lot of families. I've got two aunts that helped me a lot. There's a ton of families that helped me; my whole town."

As it happened, Hoppel had an older cousin, Adam, who ended up playing football at the University of Cincinnati. Wolfe didn't know it at the time, but the generosity of his friend's family had set him on a career path.

"My childhood, it was what it was, and it formed me into the man I am today," Wolfe said less than 24 hours after the Broncos made the 6-foot-5-inch, 300-pound defensive tackle their first pick in the 2012 draft, No. 36 overall.

"It's never where you start, it's always where you finish. Just like the draft. I may not have been a first-round pick, but I was their first pick. Now I've got to live up to that. I'm happy about it. I could dwell on the past if I wanted to, but what is that going to do? Just forgive and forget. That's the way I like to look at it. If you sit around worrying about things, it's just going to tear you down and tear you apart."

As far back as he can remember, football was his escape from a life that was hard and frustrating in almost every other area. When asked when he started playing, he knew exactly.

"I was seven. I liked to watch Reggie White. Don't tell Mr. Elway this, but I liked Brett Favre. I wanted to be a quarterback and a defensive end. So that's what I did. I played quarterback and defensive end my first year. Then they moved me to running back. I played running back until I got to like eighth grade or something.

"I actually cried when Elway beat us. Wait, I can't say 'us' anymore. When we beat them. I was going to write hate mail to Mr. Elway because I was so upset. I told him that upstairs, too. I said, 'You made me cry when I was eight years old.' He just laughed at me and said, 'Well, welcome to the good side.'"

It didn't take Wolfe long to realize that playing football was what he wanted to do. His only other sport was wrestling, and he wrestled mainly to achieve better body control for football.

"When I was a junior in high school, I was like, 'I want to play this forever; I don't ever want to stop,'" he said. "Once I really started focusing on players and what to do, I started watching guys like J.J. Watt, guys like Justin Smith, just those guys that played every snap like it's their last. Those are the guys I watched."

Which is exactly what the Broncos saw in him -- a motor that never stops. Some scouts have issues with him, which is why it was something of a surprise when the Broncos took him ahead of better-known defensive linemen such as Kendall Reyes of Connecticut, Jerel Worthy of Michigan State and Devon Still of Penn State. Not athletic enough, some say. Doesn't deal well with double teams. Short arms.

The Broncos love his fire, his will to compete.

"On some testing things we do, he's a high character guy and a guy that I think will bring a great attitude to our defense," coach John Fox said.

"His background, you can see it in the way he plays," Elway said.

"He's really hungry," Fox added.

"And that's what makes him the player that he is," Elway said. "And that's why he'll make us hungry on defense and he's going to rub off on a lot of guys because he's got a motor that doesn't stop."

A year ago, Wolfe almost made what he calls now "the worst decision of my life." He nearly left school a year early to enter the draft, mainly to get a paycheck and escape poverty. He remembers sitting on his bed staring at seven dollars, all the money he had in the world.

"It was just like a breaking point," he explained. "I was hungry. I was a month late on rent. Thank God one of my best friend's mom owned the house we were staying at. I was just looking at it, like, 'Seven bucks? Come on.' I always have somebody I can go to, I'm never going to be without, but it's like, when is enough enough? I'm tired of asking for things, you know? I'm tired of having to go ask my friend. It's demoralizing when you have to do that because I'm a very private person. I don't like asking for anything. So it hurts when you have to do stuff like that. I was just tired of it."

Cincinnati football coach Butch Jones used the most practical of arguments to change his mind: He told him he'd be costing himself a bundle by coming out early.

"I decided I came this far, why stop now?" Wolfe said. "Why cut it short? Why not just ride it out? I can do one more year, grinding and eating nothing but what they give me, basically. It all worked out." By returning to school for 2011, he significantly boosted his draft stock and secured future earnings.

Adam Hoppel, whom he followed to the University of Cincinnati, was signed to the Cleveland Browns' practice squad for a while but never played in a regular season game. Wolfe, the kid his family took in, now has a chance to compete for a starting job on the Broncos' defensive line. How his skills play out remains to be seen, but he will never need motivation.

"If you could see my area, it's dead," Wolfe said. "There's not a lot going on. I was on my own for a little while and I didn't have anything. That's the best way I can say it. Growing up, I didn't have anything. It was hard to get cleats sometimes. It was hard to get wrestling shoes. It was hard to do anything. You had to fight for everything you had. That's why I fight so hard. I'll play this game as long as I possibly can because it's my escape from what's really going on."

High School
Wolfe attended Beaver Local High School in Lisbon, Ohio. At Beaver Local High School, Derek was a three-year letter winner on the defensive line. He finished the 2007 season with Associated Press Division III All-Ohio first-team defense plaudits and registered 78 tackles and seven sacks to earn All-Ohio Valley Athletic Conference first team. He also got recognized with all-Eastern District honors following his senior season. He notched 205 career stops for the Beavers and was coached by Rich Wright.

Coming out of High School he was considered only a two-star recruit by Either way Wolfe was a standout at Beaver Local High School and is the only player in the school's history ever to be drafted by the NFL.

Derek decided to attain the University of Cincinnati.

His first season in 2008 he earned time in seven games at backup defensive tackle as a true freshman. He totaled three tackles, one each against Eastern Kentucky, at Marshall, and vs. Syracuse and recorded his first career sack on the final play of the game against Syracuse in the home finale, setting off UC's BIG EAST Championship celebration.

He had a much more productive year in 2009. He made 13 starts at defensive tackle and finished with 41 tackles, including eight tackles for a loss and added five sacks, a forced fumble and recovery, and a quarterback hurry. He recorded a pair of tackles against Southeast Missouri State. He added another three stops, a tackle for a loss, and a half sack at Oregon State and set a career high with eight tackles against Fresno State. He tallied five tackles along with two sacks at Miami (OH) and added two tackles and a half sack at USF. He recorded five tackles and a sack against Louisville and forced a fumble and recovered it and had two tackles at Syracuse. He tallied two stops and a quarterback hurry against Connecticut and finished with four tackles, including one for a loss against West Virginia. He tallied three solo stops against Illinois and finished with five tackles, including 1.5 for a loss, and a sack at Pittsburgh.

2010 was a dismal year for the Cincinnati team and they finished with a record of 4-8 on the season. Not much of note happened for Derek over the course of this year. He tied for the team high tackle count with eight tackles in the opener at Fresno State and also had a sack and tackle for a loss. He had a total of 48 tackles on the year with 3 sacks and 6.5 tackles for loss.

2011 was the year that Derek shined. He was named The Big East Co-Defensive Player of the Year and a First-Team All-Big East selection at defensive tackle. He was named to five All-America teams and a Second-Team All-America selection at DT by the Associated Press and He earned a Third Team All-America nod from Phil Steele Magazines and also a second-team honoree by and Yahoo! Sports. He led the BIG EAST and ranked fifth in the NCAA FBS, averaging 1.65 tackles for a loss per game and was third in the league averaging nearly a sack per contest. He finished the year with 21.5 tackles for a loss and 9.5 sacks and sits in fourth place on the UC career sacks list with 19.5 and 10th place on the UC career tackles for loss list with 37.0. He tallied 70 tackles, including 31 solo stops along with six QB hurries, a pair of forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. He had three double-digit tackle games, including a career-high 11 stops against Louisville. He had a career best five tackles for a loss and 2.5 sacks against Connecticut and was named the College Football Performance Awards National Performer of the Week following that game.

He had three solo stops, a sack and a forced fumble in the opener against Austin Peay and had four tackles and a fumble recovery at Tennessee. He totalled three tackles and a sack against Akron and finished with three stops and a sack against NC State. He had six stops on the road at Miami (OH) and tallied 11 tackles, three for a loss, a sack and a pair of QB hurries against Louisville tallied two stops and a fumble recovery at USF. He had five stops and two sacks at Pittsburgh and finished with five tackles, 2.5 tackles for a loss, a QB hurry and a pass break up against West Virginia. He rung up 10 stops at Rutgers and had a pair of tackles and two QB hurries at Syracuse. He tallied 10 stops, five tackles for a loss and 2.5 sacks against Connecticut and finished with six tackles, including five solos and 2.0 tackles for a loss in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl against Vanderbilt. The Bearcats were one of the most improved defenses in the nation in 2011, leading the NCAA FBS in tackles for a loss (8.62), ranking second in sacks (3.46), sixth in rushing defense (96.23) and 20th in scoring defense (20.31). He also was the co-winner of the John Pease Most Outstanding Defensive Lineman Award.

In total Wolfe played four years (2008-2011) at Cininnati. He accumulated 162 total tackles, 37 tackles for loss, and 19.5 sacks during his tenure.

NFL Draft
One of the strongest interior defensive linemen in college, Wolfe has really come into his own, growing from a 250-pound prep linebacker/tight end into a physical, aggressive 286-pound versatile performer with the pass rushing promise teams look for in a quality edge performer for a 3-4 alignment, along with the sudden quickness and power to split double-teams to neutralize the inside running game.

For a player of his size, Wolfe is quite agile and nimble on the way to wreaking havoc in the opponents’ backfields. He is one of the quicker interior linemen in the collegiate ranks, recently clocking 5.01 seconds in the 40-yard dash. He also is a force to be reckoned with in the trenches, thanks to his impressive wingspan (80 3/8-inch width), massive hands (10 3/4- inch width) and outstanding core strength, recognized as he was named the All-American Strength and Conditioning Athlete of the Year by the NSCA (National Strength and Conditioning Association) in April 2011.

While the Bearcats finished 61st in the nation in rush defense (143.77 yards per game) during Wolfe’s first season as a starter in 2009, they improved to 39th in the NCAA for 2010 (135.42 yards per game). During Wolfe’s 2011 All-American season, Cincinnati ranked sixth nationally (96.23 yards per game) in the category.

Played in the 2012 Senior Bowl and participated in the NFL Scouting Combine.

Derek was a slow riser on draft boards and was hit with criticism about not being athletic enough to play the position or at least be an early round pick after the combine. But Derek showed up on tape and teams bought into his work ethic, motor, intelligence and pass rushing skills which moved him up draft boards. To the point he was rated above much other notable players and could have been an late first round pick.

The Broncos managed to snatch him at the 36# position in the second round of the 2012 NFL draft.

Some future NFL players spend the final days before the draft touring New York City, buying new suits or planning lavish parties.

Derek Wolfe's pre-draft routine was far less glamorous.

Less than 48 hours before the Broncos made his NFL dreams come true, Wolfe found himself in a pig stall, shoveling manure.

"Most guys don't live on a farm and don't have all the little things that have to get done," Wolfe said. "It humbles you and helps you remember where you came from."

Wolfe arrived back in Negley, Ohio, a tiny rural town just a mile from the Pennsylvania border, last week to spend time with the Hoppels, friends who became his family after a turbulent childhood. The draft party, the catered meals and the fanfare, though, would have to wait. If Wolfe was back home at the farm, then that meant there was work to do.

"It's helped develop a toughness and a work ethic," Wolfe said. "Waking up early has never been a problem because you had to wake up early before school to get things done. I ruined a lot of good pairs of shoes by being in my school clothes already and then finding something else to get done, so I did it."

The Broncos shouldn't have to worry about effort when it comes to Wolfe, the defensive tackle they selected with their first pick, at No. 36.

"The thing that really stuck out to us on film was the way that he plays the game. He's relentless, and he'll be able to set the tone for us on the defensive side," Broncos executive vice president John Elway said. "That combination of want-to and athletic ability he has, we're thrilled to get him where we did at 36."

Nearly 60 people showed up to the Hoppel house for Wolfe's NFL draft parties, one Thursday and one Friday. Each person emotionally invested in Wolfe's life. Not a single person there was biologically related to him, yet Wolfe considers many of them family.

"I've got so many moms and dads. I'm luckier than anybody," Wolfe said. "The town, my friends — I've got some great, great friends that care about me, want nothing but the best for me and would never put me in harm's way."

Wolfe has been estranged from his mother for years and severed all contact with her during his sophomore year at the University of Cincinnati. He never met his biological father and no longer has a relationship with his stepfather, who is divorced from his mother.

"She had some alcohol problems, and my stepdad had his own priorities," Wolfe said. "I didn't just cut her out. I gave her chances. It wasn't like one drastic decision. I gave her chances. It sucked when it was going on, but it formed me and shaped me to who I am. I can't dwell on the past, so I try to just forgive and forget."

Wolfe went to live with the family of his best friend, Logan Hoppel, full time when he was 15. It started with sleepovers before weekend wrestling tournaments, and eventually, Kris Hoppel told Wolfe he had a permanent place to stay.

Wolfe admits he was "kind of a punk" when he was a teenager, but living with the the Hoppel family — Kris, her husband Mike, their two sons and daughter — helped "shape my morals," he said.

"Any kid gets upset and frustrated, but it's one of those things where you know you're a good person inside, you just need adults to tell you you're special," Kris Hoppel said. "Just because you had a bad home life, it doesn't mean you can't be a successful adult. I just think (the Broncos are) getting a person that is hungry to be successful in life. He is going to do absolutely everything they tell him to do. He won't ever do anything to mess that up for himself."

Wolfe nearly declared for the NFL draft last year. Cincinnati had won only four games in 2010, and Wolfe was nearly broke.

"I was going to sign the papers, and I was going to leave without telling anybody. I was sick of it. I was sick of being broke. But then I thought, I've been playing this since I was 7 years old. Why sell myself short?"

He chose to return to Cincinnati and racked up 9 1/2 sacks and earned Big East co-defensive player of the year honors. He lined up at defensive end and defensive tackle, sometimes on the same defensive series.

"If there was a critical down, Derek Wolfe was in there, because you want him on the field," said Steve Stripling, Cincinnati's associate head coach and defensive line coach.

Though Wolfe said Saturday he expected to wind up on a team that plays a 3-4 defense, not a 4-3 like the Broncos, Denver could wind up moving him around, much the same way Cincinnati did, Stripling said.

And even if Wolfe needs to make adjustments for the NFL game, Stripling predicted it wouldn't be a difficult transition for Wolfe, whom he described as "extremely intelligent" and "mature."

"He's kind of had to scrap for everything his whole life, so he's very, very motivated about football. He understands that's his pathway," Stripling said.

The Beaver Local faithful were not the only ones who were anticipating this year's NFL Draft.

Beaver Local hosted a quad track meet against local opponents Edison, Oak Glen and Wellsville. The meet featured some of the top athletes around, however, these high school athletes had to share the spotlight with a former high school athlete from the area. Before, during and after the meet one of the main topics of discussion was the future of Derek Wolfe, a 2008 Beaver Local graduate.

Wolfe, who played college football at the University of Cincinnati, was expected to be selected in the 2012 NFL Draft, however, no one knew exactly when Wolfe would receive the all important phone call.

After the conclusion of the meet, those in attendance headed home to watch the draft hoping to hear Wolfe's name called.

The wait would end up carrying over into Friday. After much speculation and 35 previous selections, Wolfe was drafted with the fourth pick in the second round by the Denver Broncos.

Edison boys and girls head coach Jamie Evans coached against Wolfe.

"That would be awesome," he said about Wolfe getting selected in the draft. "I was talking to one of the other coaches the other day. When Derek was in high school, I was coaching high school football at Edison, and I just remember him pulling around the end on a couple of plays and just completely enveloping a couple of our kids.

"I will be proud when he is drafted, and I'm not even from up here. To have a professional athlete from Edison, that would be an amazing thing, so that is something to really look forward to."

Oak Glen boys head coach Rance Everly said he was looking forward to being able to go home and watch the draft.

"I'm excited myself to go home and watch the draft to be honest with you," he said.

Everly added having a player from the local area selected in the draft is a big deal.

"It is always great," he said. "Anytime we get kids from the local area to get into pro sports like that, it is always exciting. I always root for every kid in the area. It's very, very exciting."

"It's definitely difficult. First, you have got to work your way through high school and get yourself in college. Then, you just have to really prepare yourself. Some kids are good at it. Some are better than others, but he has done a great job."

Wellsville boys head coach Randy Thrasher said people all over the local area were excited about Wolfe.

"That would be fabulous," he said about Wolfe getting picked. "That would be fabulous for somebody five miles from Wellsville to get picked in the NFL Draft and to go watch them on Sundays. It would be great. I'm looking forward to it."

"It's a big deal for everybody. I work at Homer Laughlin in Newell, and the people in West Virginia are talking about it, 'the Wolfe kid, he is going to get drafted.' They all talk about it. It is exciting. It is."

Though he is a fan of West Virginia, Everly followed Wolfe's career at Cincinnati.

"With him being in the Big East, I am a WVU fan so I followed him when WVU has played them," he said. "I have tried to follow his career with being local here, and he has done well for himself. I am happy for him."

Athletes throughout the area have been inspired by Wolfe.

"It definitely gives kids motivation because we don't have a ton of people around here that get to the pros, but when there is somebody and the kids know the name it is exciting for them," Everly said. "They talk about it a little bit, and they say, 'If he can do it, I can do it as well. I just have to work as hard if not harder than he worked.'"

The future looks bright for Wolfe. He joins a veteran group of players, some who have played on a few of the best defenses of the last decade. Wolfe will start off in the rotation and will need to develop into a three down player but with his character and work ethic Wolfe will be a NFL player for a long time. I look forward to seeing Wolfe join the pass rushing duo of Von Doom and I fear for opposing Quarterbacks. Here comes the Orange Crush! ~ Aussie.

References: 850koa, Review Online


  1. Definitely never a dull moment with Denver, guess I just don't always get the method to their madness and it bugs me. lol oh well......

    whoa whoa whoa, no "romantic get away"... 2 crazy-about-football-friends going to a game. I think I might get stuff thrown at me for bring a raider fan to the house in Denver... you guys may be cool with it but there's some crazy fans in Denver. I live for that kind of stuff though haha

    As a raider fan, he's used to name calling & stuff being thrown at him. All in good fun. Would take A LOT more than that to push his buttons, believe me... he's cool as a cucumber

  2. So you have nothing to worry about then? So go have fun, you don't often get to see the Broncos in Denver.

    And I was only kidding about the 'romantic weekend' :P

  3. Great story! We love Derek in Denver and knowing his background, I know we collectively as a community will extend warmth and compassion to him.

    As of this comment, Derek is still battling a very odd illness that has caused him seizures and other bizarre medical conditions. I am praying for you my friend, I hope life brings you some much needed peace and for the lack of a better term, smooth sailing.