As one of the most intriguing prospects at this week's Combine, Oregon defensive end Arik Armstead is striving to seize an NFL opportunity his brother was denied.
He's the younger sibling of Armond Armstead, the former CFL standout who signed with the Patriots in the spring of 2013, only to retire a year later without ever playing a game due to health issues. The elder Armstead suffered a heart attack while at USC in March 2011.
"My brother not being able to play anymore, I feel like I'm trying to carry on that torch," said Arik, a 6-7, 292-pound defensive end out of the University of Oregon. "Going through recruiting in high school, I was following up after him (and) I wanted to be like him.
"When I fell in love with the game early on when I was little my brother, hearing his name (as) a big-time recruit in high school, I wanted to be just like him. I fell in love with football. He's been helping me ever since and, you know, kind of paved the way for me. I'm definitely trying to continue that."
Distance and his own in-season commitments at Oregon never allowed Armstead to visit his brother in Foxborough. But brief as it was and as disappointing as it turned out, Arik says Armond enjoyed his brief time with the Patriots.
"(Armond) had a good experience up there," he said Saturday en route from his press conference to a radio interview inside Lucas Oil Stadium. "He was looking to go in there and do some special things up there, but things didn't work out. But he enjoyed his time up there."
Since his own career ended, Armond has helped Arik prepare for this week.
"He's taught me a lot," said Arik, whose production with the Ducks was limited to 4.0 career sacks in three seasons yet is widely considered a possible first-round selection in the upcoming NFL Draft. "Throughout this whole season he was watching film with me, giving me tips on guys...trying to get some cadence tips, working with me (to) study offensive linemen."
More recently, they've worked to help a gifted athlete, who gave up basketball in high school to concentrate on football, become even quicker off the snap. With reportedly 33-inch arms, Armstead already enjoys a reach advantage over most opponents.
"Using your length is huge at my height of course, separating guys, not letting them get to your body, using your weapons to your advantage (is) definitely a key part to my game," said Armstead. "I feel like I'm the football player I am today because all of those basketball workouts I did back in the day with my dad. It definitely turned me into who I am today, with the athleticism part."
Armstead asserts that he can play in either a 4-3 or 3-4 scheme, with the ability to shift from inside "over the guards" to a 5-technique opposite tackles. Such versatility in someone described as "a fast riser but still very raw" in an NFL.com profile, plus his brother's history, make Armstead a candidate for strong consideration by the Patriots.
Of course, when he's selected, and by whom, is out of his 10 1/2-inch sized hands.
"I'm going to control what I can control what I can control," Armstead says. "We're just going out here working as hard as possible to prepare, talking to these teams, talking to these people, just trying to be myself, trying to convey who I am to them...what kind of player I am and let the chips fall where they may."