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After journey from Albany to Florida State, could EDGE Jared Verse find NFL home in Denver?


INDIANAPOLIS — Jared Verse's NFL recruitment already looks far different than the collegiate edition.

At the 2024 NFL Combine, the dominant defender drew a swarm of reporters on Wednesday as one of the top pass-rushing prospects in this year's draft.

Just a few years ago, he could hardly draw a single scholarship offer.

The Ohio native finished his high school career as a three-time Pennsylvania Heartland Athletic Conference selection, but he garnered just one collegiate scholarship offer.

"I was undersized out of high school," Verse said Wednesday. "There was no doubt. I was 200 pounds, 6-[foot]-3. I wasn't some monstrous force. You look at me in high school [and] you look at me today, you'd probably be like, 'What the…?'"

That question is no longer being asked, as Verse recorded 29.5 tackles for loss and 18 sacks for Florida State over the last two seasons. NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah assigned him to the Broncos as No. 12 in his latest mock draft, and Verse told reporters Wednesday that he has met with the Broncos at the Combine.

Verse, though, didn't start his career in Tallahassee. He began his collegiate journey more than 1,200 miles north, at the University at Albany. The FCS-level Great Danes were the lone school to offer Verse, and he focused on improving over a pair of seasons in upstate New York.

"I always knew [success] was going to come," Verse said. "My family had no doubt in me. With my hard work and my athletic capabilities and taking advantage of every opportunity that came my way. Albany helped me flourish, they helped me grow. Going to Florida State was something that changed my life for the better. Ultimately being in this position, being around all these athletic guys, being in Indianapolis is just something I dreamed of. I kind of knew it was coming, but I just had to stay focused."

He also needed to add to his frame, and Verse used his time during the initial stages of the COVID-19 pandemic to add an estimated 30-40 pounds of muscle. It paid dividends, as Verse appeared in 15 games over two years at Albany and recorded 74 tackles, 21.5 tackles for loss, 14.5 sacks and 15 quarterback hurries. He earned Coastal Athletic Association Defensive Rookie of the Year honors in the spring of 2021 and then tacked on first-team all-CAA honors in the fall of 2021.

"It helped me grow exponentially," Verse said of his time at Albany. "It was hard because Albany, it was an FCS school, but not a lot of people take their football program that serious. … While I was there, it was more of a mental focus for me to just become a better player."

Verse's time at Albany also provided the motivation he needed — and that still fuels him as he's on the doorstep of an NFL career.

"I have respect for everyone in this [draft] class," Verse said. "All these guys are hard-working guys. I don't feel like there's anything athletically that separates me from dudes out here that are fast, dudes out here that are strong. I think the only thing I have over these guys is I had to earn [it with] my hard-working ability. Being at Albany is something that made me get that. Only having one offer in high school is something that forced me to have that ability."

Verse's drive prepared him for the moment, but it was his play against Syracuse that put the next stage of his career in motion. As Florida State's staff prepared for a game against Syracuse, they watched film of a matchup between the Orange and Great Danes and noticed Verse on tape.

"There was a defensive end that was unbelievably active," Florida State coach Mike Norvell told ESPN in 2023.

Verse was recruited to play for a slew of schools, including USC, Florida and LSU, but he transferred to play for the Seminoles ahead of the 2022 season. In Tallahassee, he said he was able to correct aspects of his game that he "never would've even thought were a problem when I was at Albany," like the "slightest tilt of my foot" or his hand being too far in front of him. Though he found success in Year 1 with 17 tackles for loss and nine sacks and could have entered the 2023 NFL Draft, he returned for a second season in Tallahassee.

"Coming back and learning that little bit more, it's made me so much better of a player," Verse said. "I don't think I can even compare to the way I was in 2022.

"… It was [good for] my development. I feel like I was a good player. I was big, strong, fast. But it was the small things — the technical things, the little details, [the] minute details — that wouldn't matter in college football, but when you're in the NFL when you're going up against 10-year vets, it's going to matter."

The two seasons at FSU put Verse on the NFL map, and they gave him the technical skills that have put him in the conversation as one of the top edge rushers in the draft.

"It changed me as a player," Verse said of his Florida State career. "You watch my Albany film and you watch my Florida State film, it's a different person. Not because of anything physically, but because of technique."

And now, Verse is set to complete his transformation from an under-recruited high schooler to a likely first-round pick in the 2024 NFL Draft. As he takes the next step in his career, he said he'll continue to draw motivation from his past.

"It gave me that hunger," Verse said. "That's something you can't teach. You can't teach the grind, you can't teach the strain, you can't teach the hunger to become a better player. Every day, my strive is to become a better player. I don't want to ever remain stagnant. If I ever hit a point where I can't become better, I feel like that's when the love of football with dissipate, but I don't think that will ever happen."

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