Urban's play speaks volumes
Quiet but tenacious defensive tackle anchors defensive line
“Speak softly and carry a big stick.”
The famous edict came more than a century ago from Theodore Roosevelt, but it could as easily apply to senior defensive tackle Brent Urban. Sitting back in his press conference, sharing tales of his middle school hockey exploits and his affinity for the Allman Brothers, he does not give off the imposing aura his 6’7”, 295-pound frame suggests.
Urban even says he avoids trash talking during games. To the senior, breaking into the opponent’s backfield and disrupting the offense matters more than talking about it.
“On the field I’m quiet,” Urban said. “I kind of like to talk with my pads more than anything.”
Virginia’s defense had little to celebrate in a 59-10 drubbing against Oregon, but Urban provided a fair share of the Cavalier highlights. He blocked a point-after attempt after the Ducks’ second touchdown, and he burst into the backfield on fourth down late in the first half to complete a goal line stand and keep the game within reach. In Virginia’s opening win against Brigham Young, he registered three pass breakups.
Urban’s exploits have not gone unnoticed. Drafted 15th overall last year into the Canadian Football League, the Ontario native is now making waves with professional scouts in the United States.
“We’ve had every NFL team come through to our practice facility, and every scout has come in and said this guy’s playing well,” Virginia coach Mike London said. “I’m just saying what the scouts are saying: [he] is definitely a guy moving up the radar and catching a lot of people’s eyes.”
The tackle’s emergence as a defensive star and national presence is impressive given his start at Virginia. Playing high school football in Canada, Urban did not attract much attention, picking up just a two-star ranking from Rivals. He played in camps to gain exposure, and when Virginia was the first school to offer him a scholarship, he jumped at the chance.
He struggled with injuries early in his career, and recorded just 15 tackles across 13 games in 2011. Last season Urban appeared to turn a corner, starting all 12 games and tallying 20 tackles, including two sacks. Urban saw 2012 as the first time he was able to translate his innate athleticism onto the playing field at Virginia.
“Last year I was starting to feel more comfortable in my role as a [defensive tackle],” Urban said. “My wrist injury was feeling a lot better and I was finally feeling … the ability that I could go out there and play.”
Urban’s signature moment came in Virginia’s final game of 2012 — a 16-yard fumble return for a touchdown in the 17-14 loss to Virginia Tech. He became the first Cavalier in five years to return a fumble for a score and created a lasting memory for his career.
“That was definitely a big moment for me,” Urban said. “Virginia Tech was a definitely a big game for me, with people looking at me.”
Entering this season, Urban’s focus centered on using the spring and summer to augment his 2012 gains. Now paired with a new, aggressive defensive coordinator in Jon Tenuta, Urban is earning lavish praise from his coaching staff.
“The light bulb has certainly clicked on for him,” defensive line coach Vincent Brown said. “I think with what we’re doing up front, it allows him to kind of pin his ears back and go and really pressure the pocket and get into throwing lanes and become a disruptive force inside. It’s very refreshing watching his development.”
While Urban has heightened his aggression on the field, his demeanor off the field has remained even-keeled.
“He is a very laid back young man, but there’s some fire in him,” Brown said. “You wish you could get a little bit more out of him at times, but he plays hard. There’s never any question about his effort and his intensity, and the thing that I try to reiterate to him is that with his size and with his athleticism, he can be a dominant player. I think his upside is off the charts, but we just want to keep saying, ‘Here’s what you can become. If you believe it, here’s what you can become.’”
Virginia plays a 4-3 defense – more popular among college programs – which means that Urban has been cast into the role of defensive tackle. In high school, though, he played as a defensive end in a 3-4 scheme, a system increasingly popular in the NFL thanks to the success of teams such as the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Urban says he got exposure to the 3-4 in school by watching teams such as the New England Patriots, and he believes his intrinsic physical gifts — height and athleticism — could entice professional teams.
“Just from feedback, I got the sense that as a 3-4 end, I kind of fit the prototype instead of the shorter quicker [4-3 ends] and the shorter, more stocky [4-3 tackles],” Urban said. “It was something I was looking for in a college when I was in high school, so I think I can definitely kind of cater to teams.”
After being drafted No. 15 overall in the 2012 CFL draft by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, Urban could have left Virginia for his native Canada, but decided to stay for his senior year. The Tiger-Cats control his rights through the end of his college eligibility, but his goal has always been the NFL, even if it deprives his countrymen the chance to see him play at home.
“People understand,” Urban said. “The NFL is where the most competition is, and that’s where all the best Canadian payers want to play, also.”
Playing professionally is his dream, but the level-headed Urban is not one to get wrapped up in the hype that is quickly building around him. Hype is hype — and the quiet Urban knows that his actions are what will set him apart.
“It’s obviously a goal of mine to play at the next level, but I kind of tune it out and focus on myself and make sure I’m getting better every day,” Urban said. “Those kind of things will work themselves out if I play like that.”