Throughout the course of the NFL Combine, Kansas defensive end Dorance Armstrong, Jr., has continued to find himself being asked one question, by every team he has met with, and one question only.
“What made you go to Kansas?” Armstrong recalled Saturday with a chuckle. “I just feel like a lot of people kind of downplay Kansas, just because right now we’re not a winning program.
“But it will be turned around soon.”
In comparison to other programs that offered him scholarships out of high school — Michigan State, Houston, Northwestern, Purdue, Texas Tech — Kansas has struggled significantly lately, going 7-29 in the three years before Armstrong's arrival, and 3-33 in the three years since.
Yet, Kansas was the only place he took a college visit to. He played basketball as a senior at North Shore Senior High School in Cloverleaf, Texas, so that didn’t leave much time to take official visits that year. The one he did take, to Lawrence, would prove to be memorable.
“I went down there and just fell in love with the place,” Armstrong said. “I wanted to go there and play right away. I felt I could do that, and I did.”
While Armstrong started five games as a true freshman in 2015, recording 23 tackles and 3.5 sacks, the concept of becoming an NFL player became real for him after his monster sophomore campaign, when he earned first-team All-Big 12 honors by finishing with 56 tackles and 10 sacks.
“That’s when I really started pushing to become an NFL player sooner,” Armstrong said.
His splash numbers fell off some as a junior — he registered 63 tackles but only had 1.5 sacks— as he received more attention from defenses.
But that didn’t keep NFL Draft analyst Mike Mayock from offering some nice praise for Armstrong on Saturday, particularly when it comes to Armstrong's potential as a 3-4 outside linebacker, a defensive position different than he played at Kansas, where he rarely dropped into coverage (a key tenet to most 3-4 schemes).
“He checked in a little better than I expected, which is good,” Mayock said of Armstrong, who measured in at an imposing 6 feet 4 inches and 257 pounds with ideal hand size (10 inches) and arm length (34. 3/4 inches).
“He played out of position at Kansas; they had him as a five-technique (defensive end) instead of outside linebacker, which is what he is," added Mayock. "But I think he can play in a four-down system, and I’m interested to see him work out because I’ve got him clumped in a group of 3-4 outside linebackers and I’m interested to see which of those guys step up in the next couple of days."
Regardless of position, Armstrong hopes to show teams during workouts on Sunday that he has the athleticism to be exactly what he wants to be:
“A dominant pass rusher,” said Armstrong, who prefers to work off his speed rush and says he studies Khalil Mack, Justin Houston and Robert Quinn because they have a similar body type to him.
Teams are intrigued by his potential, too. Armstrong said Saturday he has already had formal interviews with the Houston Texans and Detroit Lions, with several more lined up throughout the weekend.
What’s more, depending on how he fares in his position drills on Saturday, Armstrong is projected to go anywhere from the second to the fifth round in the NFL Draft.
“It feels real good,” Armstrong said, “just being able to put on for my team.”