CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. -- Kasim Edebali had to come a long way just to get to Boston College, so the distance he covered on his third-quarter strip-sack of Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas this past Saturday was nothing.
The 6-foot-3, 246-pound defensive end started the play, a second-and-11 at the Tech 20-yard line, on the right end of the line. After the snap, Edebali tried a speed rush around Hokies left tackle Jonathan McLaughlin, but the big freshman was ready and pushed him past the pocket.
When he slipped off McLaughlin’s block, Edebali was standing at the 11.
“The tackle kinda blocked me really well and I had really bad leverage, and once I saw he scrambled out I just tried to chase him back down,” Edebali said after practice Wednesday on Shea Field, the Eagles preparing for Saturday’s game at New Mexico State (3:30 p.m. ET on ESPN3). “But kudos to [Kevin Pierre-Louis] because they were saying he really covered the throwing lane so Logan Thomas had to really scramble out.”
The fifth-year senior didn’t quit, and as Thomas looked for an open receiver Edebali hit him hard from behind at about the 15 and separated him from the football.
It was a key play in the Eagles’ 34-27, comeback win over the Hokies, and another frame in Edebali’s senior highlight reel.
After entering the season with somewhat pedestrian career numbers (99 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks in 36 career games), Edebali has piled up the stats with 39 tackles (22 solo), 9.0 tackles for loss, 7.5 sacks, four forced fumbles and one fumble recovery in eight games in 2013.
The 7.5 sacks is tied for 10th in the country and third in the ACC.
BC had only six sacks as a team in 2012.
Clearly, the Hamburg, Germany, native has thrived in new defensive coordinator Don Brown’s aggressive system.
“It was really stout, just be in your gaps, fit it, and play good run defense and try to defend the pass,” Edebali said of the Eagles’ previous defensive philosophy. “Now Coach just brings pressure from everywhere, trying to put different players with certain skill aspects in certain positions. He’s just trying to get me on the edge and get me to the quarterback.”
With eight tackles, including three for a loss, two sacks and two forced fumbles against the Hokies, Edebali continued to prove he’s a good fit for that role.
Voted a co-captain in preseason, BC coach Steve Addazio said Edebali’s as valuable to the Eagles for his off-the-field contributions as he is for his on-the-field contributions.
“He’s a real energy guy,” Addazio said. “So he brings a lot of juice to practice, to the field. ... He’s just got a great attitude. You like being around him. You spend time around him, he’s got a great smile on his face.
“He’s got a really positive effect on our football team, and he’s a good player. So it’s been very, very important for us.”
Though he plays on the other side of the ball, running back Andre Williams has seen Edebali grow over the years in Chestnut Hill and said he’s someone to “look up to.”
“What I see out of Kasim every day is it’s like his personality never changes,” Williams said. “It’s real static and he brings a lot of energy to the field every day. As soon as he touches the field he’s making noise, he’s getting loud and you know that really gets my blood running even when it’s cold outside.”
The only child of a single mother, Edebali first got introduced to football when he saw the Super Bowl on TV in Germany. Later, he found a club team and got on the field. Eventually Edebali worked his way to the German U-19 team, which then landed him a scholarship to Kimball Union in Meriden, N.H., for the last two years of high school.
Once in the States, there was a lot of work to do. Before he could even get to football, he had to learn the language. On Wednesday, Edebali said the first time someone asked him “What’s up?” he looked at the sky.
He didn’t understand the slang phrase.
Seven years later, he’s a vocal leader for a BC team (4-4, 2-3 ACC) that’s holding out hope for a return to bowl eligibility after a couple of down seasons in Chestnut Hill.
Asked if he could’ve seen this coming, Edebali laughed.
“Nah,” he said. “It’s been a long journey, but I’m glad I am where I am right now. I’m really grateful for the people who’ve been here who have supported me. Some guys knew, ‘This guy’s struggling, he can’t even talk to coach.’ You don’t even know how to approach a problem.”
He credited former Eagles defenders like Alex Albright and Mark Herzlich for helping him through the hard times and said he still reaches out to former captains like Ifeanyi Momah and Emmett Cleary for advice now and then.
Most of all, though, he’s enjoying the ride while it lasts.
“I love it,” he said. “I love this team, I love this school. I love everything about BC. And just being here, being the captain for the team just means everything to me. It’s even better when we get the victories out there. I’m just loving it.”
Jack McCluskey is an editor for ESPN.com and a frequent contributor to ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter @jack_mccluskey.