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Getting Rocky Ready: Another 'Cane In Mix

Apologies to Penn State, Ohio State and USC. It's just that you could make a case for "Linebacker U" now being a team associated with the University of Miami.

Yes, the Hurricane program has been traditionally known for its flash and brash, its fleet-footed wide receivers, running backs and defensive backs. Just look at the Redskins' roster, sprinkled with great "Made in Miami" athletes such as Clinton Portis, Santana Moss and Sean Taylor.

Yet it seems as though Miami has also turned out more quality linebackers than any other football program in recent memory.

The most notable is Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, a two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year and Super Bowl XXXV MVP. He is considered one of the best to ever play the position.

Miami's great run at linebacker can be traced to 1993, when three 'Canes were drafted: Jessie Armstead, Micheal Barrow and Darrin Smith. All three had prosperous NFL careers.

Lewis may have set the standard for Miami linebackers but others have been trying to eclipse him, including the Jets' Jonathan Vilma (NFL Rookie of the Year in 2004), Carolina's Dan Morgan (2004 Pro Bowler) and Denver's D.J. Williams (2004 first-round pick).

Now comes the 6-3, 237-pound McIntosh, a player the Redskins coveted enough that they moved up from the No. 53 pick in the second round to No. 35 in a trade with the New York Jets.

In the early going of the 2006 regular season, McIntosh has played mostly on special teams. Veteran weak-side linebacker Warrick Holdman remains at the top of the depth chart and is getting the bulk of playing time.

McIntosh has logged three special teams tackles so far. Every now and then, McIntosh flashes his potential--such as in the fourth quarter of last Sunday's 31-15 win over the Houston Texans.

McIntosh fought through blockers and leveled kick returner Phillip Buchanon, staving off a big return.

Assistant head coach-defense Gregg Williams says McIntosh has improved dramatically since he first started working with him last May, shortly after the draft.

"He has come an awful long way," Williams said. "I have been very impressed with his toughness and his resiliency as a rookie to block out distractions. You have to be able to pay your dues, slow your heartbeat down and not be caught up in the hoopla.

"The first few regular season games for a rookie can be shattering to their confidence level. Because he comes from a big-time program that plays with an attitude anyway, he will have an easier time for us."

From the outset, McIntosh has been a good fit for the Redskins.

First, it helped that he was a teammate of Taylor for three years and of Portis for one year. Along with Moss, there's plenty of "Hurricane" familiarity to acclimate the rookie to NFL life.

Truth be known, McIntosh is not your prototype player from the "The U." He is, generally, a quiet, hard-working competitor who lets his actions on the field do the talking. In this regard, Redskins fans may be reminded of another No. 52 to play linebacker for Washington, Neal Olkewicz, a big part of the success of the first Gibbs era.

McIntosh had a typical military family upbringing, moving around the country with his father Roger, Sr., mother Darcia and two brothers.

He spent his high school years living with his grandmother Patrice Lattimore, who actually gave him the nickname "Rocky" when he was a baby, in the small South Carolina town of Gaffney. Best known for producing Southern actress Andie MacDowell, Gaffney has plenty of charm but less people than peach trees with a population of just over 13,000.

While his family moved to Texas to the next military assignment, McIntosh planted some roots in Gaffney, and that allowed him to concentrate on football and school. McIntosh maintained a 3.0 GPA and was named one of the top 15 prep linebackers in the country.

McIntosh's classroom dedication continued at Miami where he not only earned his degree in criminology but is close to two more degrees, in African-American studies and in English.

McIntosh's commitment to the game is evident in the fact that even though he was married three days prior to the draft to his fiancée Alessia, he has yet to take a honeymoon. That, presumably, will have to wait until the end of his rookie year in pro ball.

A minor knee injury in June sidelined McIntosh as he underwent arthroscopic surgery in order to be ready for the August training camp. At the time, McIntosh was already earning praise from Williams.

"The light went on for Rocky," Williams said in June. "He was really having some great practices. He did about three or four things that were the best of any linebacker since I've been here."

As training camp opened at Redskins Park, McIntosh continued to impress.

"Rocky can do some things that some other linebackers can't do," Williams said. "He has to get the verbiage of the defensive packages down. But he brings a punch. He can separate and run off a block as well as linebacker I've seen in terms of getting off a block and accelerating."

McIntosh's combination of quickness, size and intelligence allowed him to register 200 tackles, including 23 for losses, and 9.5 sacks in his final two seasons at Miami.

"[The Redskins] play a very speedy defense, very athletic. Guys go out and fly around and that's what I did in my tenure at Miami," said McIntosh. "I attack with my speed and knowing where the plays are going and reading the offensive sets."

Holdman has earned the starting assignments in the Redskins' first three regular season games. The veteran has been a solid performer, recording eight tackles to lead the defense in the victory over the Texans.

When coaches feel McIntosh is ready, he is expected to get most of the playing time at weak-side linebacker.

In order to be a three-down linebacker, McIntosh will have to concentrate on good pass defense, taking care of tight ends and running backs out of the backfield.

While McIntosh was a quick study at Miami, he knows that Williams didn't start Taylor or fellow defensive back Carlos Rogers in their first NFL games.

"I'm just trying to fit in and help the team and after that, whatever happens, happens," McIntosh humbly said.

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