Douglas is Dogs' song and sack man

The Citadel's Derek Douglas has 3½ sacks and 5½ tackles for loss this season.

For a choirboy, The Citadel's Derek Douglas makes a pretty mean defensive tackle.

Along with his all-district and MVP honors as a football player at Sachse High School in Garland, Texas, Douglas was nominated for best actor in a musical.

"It was called 'Once Upon a Mattress,' " Douglas said. "I played the role of Prince Dauntless."

He also won the International Thespian Society's best actor award in 2008, was named outstanding choir student three years running, and sang in the Acappella Choir and the Madrigal Singers.

You could call him the Bulldogs' song and sack man. At 6-1 and 262 pounds, Douglas can deliver a hit on the field just as well as on the stage.

"He's making plays all over the field," Citadel coach Kevin Higgins said.

Douglas won a starting role this season at what might be the deepest position on the Bulldogs' squad, defensive tackle, after redshirting as a freshman last year. He already has 3 1/2 sacks and 5 1/2 tackles for loss, second on the team behind senior defensive end Erik Clanton (5 1/2 sacks, 9 1/2 TFLs).

Like a lot of kids in Texas, Douglas started playing football at an early age, in kindergarten. His father, Paul, played baseball at Louisiana State from 1975-77.

But when Douglas got to Sachse High School as a ninth-grader, he found out that his mom, Jill, had signed him up for choir.

"First day of class, freshman year, I looked down at my schedule and it said, 'Concert,' " Douglas said. "I didn't even know what that was. I spent most of the year not liking it, but at the end of the year, something clicked."

He sang in choir the rest of his high school career, and even talked a football teammate into joining him. He and fellow lineman Chris Hill performed as the Blues Brothers at the choir's fall show.

"It taught me not to be shy," Douglas said of his career in musical theater. "Performing in front of people, that really helped me a lot. Plus, there was a cute girl in there."

Douglas' exploits as an all-district defensive end in 2007 and 2008 earned him the attention of former Citadel assistant Bob Fello, who recruited Texas for the Bulldogs at that time. Douglas had a chance to go to Sam Houston State, about two hours from his home in Garland, but decided The Citadel was where he belonged.

"It was tough, especially for my mom," he said. "But it was the best decision I ever made."

Douglas spent last season on the scout team, and moved from defensive end to tackle in the spring. It didn't take him long to make an impact this season. He had two sacks in the season-opening win over Chowan, came back with a tackle for loss at Arizona, and had a big game against Presbyterian with 2 1/2 tackles for loss and 1 1/2 sacks.

"When I first saw Derek on film, I thought he was as fundamentally sound as anyone I'd seen," Higgins said. "Shoulders square, perfect technique. When he came here, he was a little undersized and I had some concerns about that. But he worked and put on about 15 pounds over the summer and has really come into his own."

Douglas' progress has made what looked like a three-man rotation at defensive tackle into a four-man group along with Quintin Turner, Keith Carter and Demarrio Sims.

"We all push each other in practice," Douglas said. "I know if I let down and have a bad day or a bad practice, coach will get somebody else in there."

Of course, The Citadel has a tradition of musically talented linemen. Morris Robinson played offensive line for the Bulldogs in 1989 and 1990, and went on to current fame as an opera singer.

"I don't know if I can follow in his footsteps," Douglas said. "I'm just trying to help the team win some games."