- Paul Kuharsky, ESPN Staff Writer
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Cross-checking with old friends can be a very valuable thing at draft time.
Titans defensive line coach Jim Washburn did with first-round pick Derrick Morgan, and Washburn said his phone was buzzing with text messages Thursday night about the two being a perfect marriage.
Joe D’Alessandris was the Chan Gailey assistant who led the recruiting charge to pull Morgan to Georgia Tech over Ohio State, Penn State, Miami and Boston College. He also just happened to have coached with Washburn way back when they were both starting out and Washburn was the defensive coordinator at Livingston College in 1979.
“Joe’s my best friend in coaching,” Washburn said. “… He told me Derrick was the most unusual high school player he’d ever seen, everything he did was just so intense. Joe said this is a great match, me and Derrick being together.”
Giff Smith, who coached defensive line at Georgia Tech, worked as a graduate assistant for Arkansas when Washburn was there. Like D’Alessandris, Smith now works for Gailey with the Buffalo Bills.
And before Livingston and Arkansas, when Washburn and Titans scout Cole Proctor were at Lees McRae College, a high school coach used to visit them to talk football. Paul Johnson’s now the head man for the Yellow Jackets.
“It’s a small world,” Morgan said.
“Everybody texted last night and said, 'This is perfect,’” Washburn said. “Of the five guys -- I’m counting Sergio Kindle, Jerry Hughes, Brandon Graham, Jason Pierre-Paul and Derrick -- this guy had the fastest 10[-yard time] and this guy is the toughest …
“This guy played like we try to have the Titans’ defensive linemen play. He’s got to run to the ball better, but he brings it, now. When he lines up, he means business.”