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NFL DRAFT: OFFENSIVE LINEMEN

Ducasse ready for next level

UMass tackle has pride in his game

By Monique Walker
Globe Staff / April 21, 2010

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Vladimir Ducasse didn’t watch his first NFL game until his junior year of high school. Until that point, he hadn’t played football, either. A native of Haiti, Ducasse was living with family in Connecticut and attending Stamford High when a coach and a couple of his classmates approached him in the hallway about playing the sport.

Despite growing up in a country where soccer is the primary sport, Ducasse took his 275-pound frame to the football field. It was a decision that would change his life.

Ducasse played four seasons at the University of Massachusetts as a tackle and is considered among the top offensive linemen available in this year’s NFL draft. If selected, he would be the first UMass product to be picked in more than 10 years.

Other top prospects include Oklahoma State tackle Russell Okung, Iowa tackle Bryan Bulaga, Oklahoma tackle Trent Williams, and Idaho guard Mike Iupati.

Okung is expected to be an early first-round pick, but the others may have to wait to hear their name. ESPN analyst Mel Kiper, Jr. believes Ducasse and Iupati could be second-round selections.

At 6 feet 4 inches, 332 pounds, Ducasse displayed endurance during his Minuteman career, playing all 23 games in 2008 and 2009. Last season, he was an Associated Press first-team All-American. In 2008, he was the only UMass player to start every game at the same position. He was part of a line that allowed only six sacks that season.

Even though he discovered the NFL late, Ducasse quickly picked up the rules.

“I’m a student of the game, still learning,’’ he said.

Ducasse was among those invited to the Senior Bowl and NFL Combine this year, and he made an impression at both. He said he can play tackle on either side, but at the Senior Bowl he played only left tackle. While there, Ducasse said he picked up some tips and benefited from going against players from larger schools.

But there was some pride in representing a Football Championship Subdivision program at the national level.

“Oh yeah, definitely,’’ Ducasse said. “Not too many small-school players get a chance like that. A lot of pride in that.’’

If an NFL team is interested in Ducasse, he said he has plenty to offer.

“I like competing, I’m physical,’’ he said. “Up at this level, everybody is talented, everybody is athletic, everybody is fast. They just want to be able to see you finish and be physical, and that’s what I think I bring to the table.’’

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