Football: Lowry’s added bulk pays off on field

Dean+Lowry+brings+down+the+ball+carrier+in+last+season%E2%80%99s+game+against+Iowa.+The+senior+defensive+end+has+steadily+progressed+by+adding+weight+in+each+of+his+years+at+Northwestern.

Daily file photo by Nathan Richards

Dean Lowry brings down the ball carrier in last season’s game against Iowa. The senior defensive end has steadily progressed by adding weight in each of his years at Northwestern.

Claire Hansen, Reporter


Football


Dean Lowry doesn’t talk about himself very often. When asked about his individual performance, it’s not uncommon for the 6-foot-6 defensive end to respond with a statement about the team.

But in his senior season with the Wildcats, Lowry’s unrelenting play has gotten a lot of other people talking about him.

Through the first eight games of the year, Lowry has recorded 36 tackles and 10.5 tackles for loss, six of those coming in a breakout performance during Northwestern’s victory against Nebraska.

But Lowry wasn’t always so dominant. As a freshman, he tallied only 14 tackles in 13 games, and recorded just three tackles for loss on the whole season. The biggest difference between then and now has been the weight Lowry has added over the years.

“I thought that Dean was a great player in high school,” coach Pat Fitzgerald said. “And he’s developed. He’s put on 15 pounds every year, he’s bought into our strength program, he’s done a great job with (defensive line coach) Marty Long and developed really well. His technique and fundamentals have really, really improved.”

Recruited out of Rockford, Illinois, where he led his high school team to two consecutive undefeated seasons, Lowry weighed 225 pounds and was ranked 115th in the nation among high school defensive ends by ESPN.com.

Now, as a senior, Lowry is getting looks from NFL scouts.

Long credits Lowry’s steep personal growth to significant time in the weight room and a deepening understanding of his opponent’s techniques.

“When he was a freshman, he had the same height and everything, but just was not as strong, and that’s why I say those strength coaches were key,” Long said. “If he were not as strong, I could still coach him, but he wouldn’t be the physical presence that he is right now.”

NU’s defensive line unit spends a significant amount of time in the weight room together, building a competitive camaraderie by “talking smack to each other,” Lowry said. Lowry added that his current bench press hovers around 415 pounds while his squat is about 590 pounds.

Lowry’s increased physicality has only served to accentuate his increasing knowledge of the game, a growth that Long can see in individual plays.

“There was a play a week ago where the tight end was going to block down and the tackle was going to pull and he knew it was coming,” Long said. “And he just physically got off and went through people and made the tackle. He came to the sideline and I said, ‘How did you know?’ And he said ‘Coach, I saw it happen before the play even started.’”

Perhaps one of Lowry’s most developed skills is his ability to jump off the ball quickly, a move that Long calls a “pro-style get off.” Lowry’s fast starts are aided by his unusual speed, a speed that made Fitzgerald initially consider placing him at tight end.

Lowry’s quickness off the line, physicality and speed culminated in his standout performance against Nebraska, where he totaled 10 tackles, six tackles for loss and two sacks. Lowry’s play alone cost the Cornhuskers 47 yards.

Lowry’s six tackles for loss set a new NU record and tied for sixth-best ever in the Big Ten, while his pair of sacks moved him into seventh place for career sacks in NU program history.

“I just felt dialed in that game,” Lowry said. “Sometimes I try to read different keys that I see or different tendencies you see on film, but a lot of it is just focusing on the game.”

While Lowry’s strong senior season has NFL scouts hovering, Lowry said the future simply isn’t a focus for him right now.

“The focus is to finish strong,” Lowry said. “We have four big games left, and right now it’s just about sending the seniors off and myself with a big next four games and a bowl win, so that’s the goal.”

This team-centric mentality is one of the reasons that Long describes Lowry as a consistent “leader by example.”

“His mindset is, ‘if I can get the goals for the team, then I’ll be able to get the goals for myself,’” Long said. “Guys see how hard he plays and they want to play.”

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Twitter: @clairechansen