The Washington Football Team used one of its three seventh-round picks (246th overall) to select Penn State defensive end Shaka Toney.
Toney (6-foot-2, 242 pounds) was a two-time All-Big Ten selection and a team captain who finished his career with 115 tackles (29.5 for loss), 20.5 sacks, four forced fumbles and four passes defensed. He was as consistent as he was productive and improved each season, making the all-freshman team in 2017, second-team all-conference in 2019 and first-team honors this past season.
Here are five things to know about one of the team's newest defensive ends.
1. His quickness and technique set him apart in high school
There was a lot that set Toney apart from his teammates at Imhotep Institute Charter School in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He towered over people with his 6-foot-4, 217-pound frame and was a track star, competing in the 400 and 4x100 relays.
What truly separated Toney from his competition on the field was not his stats, which of course were impressive; rather, it was his quickness and technique that routinely confounded offensive linemen.
"He does a great job anticipating the snap and is really good at keeping blockers off him," Imhotep head coach Albie Crosby told Rivals.
Toney believed it was "impossible" for a lineman to be physical with him because of his quickness, and he certainly backed that up. He had 64 sacks during his high school career, 21 of which came during his senior season. He earned a first-team PIAA Class 3A all-state honor for that performance and was named the Class AAA Defensive Player of the Year by EasternPAFootball.com.
"He does a phenomenal job of bending, and his pad level is tremendous," Crosby said, "making it tough for an offensive lineman to get his hands on him."
Imhotep also saw an astounding level of success with Toney hounding quarterbacks. The Panthers went 55-5 in that four-year span and won three district championships. Toney capped off his time at Imhotep by helping the team finish with a 15-0 record and the school's first PIAA AAA State Championship in 2015.
"It was always a dream to win a state championship," Toney said, "and for it to come true meant so much to all of us."
2. He challenged Saquon Barkley as a high school recruit
Toney was still fresh off the high of winning a state championship when he was in a car packed with Penn State players on an official visit to the Nittany Lions, who were showing heavy interest in him. As they headed back to his hotel, some of them started talking about star running back Saquon Barkley, who had just rushed for 1,076 yards the previous season and, unbeknownst to Toney, was in the car with him.
Eventually some of the players asked Toney what he thought about Barkley, to which he said, "He be running out of bounds sometimes and not fighting for extra yards."
That's when Barkley tapped him on the shoulder and asked, "You know Saquon?" Toney replied, "I've seen him on TV." Then Barkley got out of the car and said "Well, I'm Saquon. ...I'll see you in the summertime."
"Yes, you will," was all Toney said back.
The story spread quickly across Penn State's campus. It's possible it also reached the ears of head coach James Franklin, who strategically placed Barkley and Toney next to each other in the locker room. It's likely the two had plenty of battles during practice in college, but now the stakes will be much higher with Barkley playing for the New York Giants. If Toney's confidence is anything like it was at Penn State, it should be a fun competition between former teammates.
"Apparently, everyone's telling everyone about this," Toney said at the time. "Hey, if I'm at defensive end and [Barkley] is at running back, I can tackle him. If I'm at running back, that's another story. But if I'm at defensive end, [the] only thing he can do is stiff-arm."
3. He owes a lot to his mom
Toney has succeeded wherever he has gone in his career, and now he is set to join Washington's formidable defense and potent defensive line. None of that would have been possible without his mother, Debbie Toney-Moore, by his side for every step.
"One of the things I always admired about my son is that he knew at an early age what he wanted," Toney-Moore told the Reading Eagle. "Sometimes it would conflict with how I thought it should be. But I really admired his determination at a young age, how he would stand up for himself and stand up for his friends."
While Toney was taking care of business on the field for Imhotep, Toney-Moore was making sure his effort did not go unnoticed. She spoke to recruiters and contacted schools about her son, which led to him getting his first scholarship offer.
"She took a day off from work and sat in my coach's office," Toney said. "I don't remember who came, but a coach told me, 'She's the driving force for us to look at you.' Schools weren't really paying attention to me."
Toney was eventually contacted by Penn State, which had always been one his dream destinations. He quickly accepted and went on to become one of the best pass-rushers in program history with Toney-Moore offering him constant support.
"My mom means the world to me," Toney said. "I can't imagine doing anything without her. She's my ultimate motivator. She always gets me to want more for myself. She keeps me hungry. She always reminds me of my dreams and ambitions."
4. He's dedicated to film study
Mark Schmidt, Imhotep's defensive coordinator during Toney's senior year, taught him a valuable lesson before he moved on to Penn State: "If you want to have a leg up on your opponent before you step on the field, know everything about him and his team."
Toney told the Daily Times that Schmidt had one of the biggest impacts on how he prepares for a game, and he cherished his coach's advice throughout his college career.
Toney spent large chunks of his week preparing for games, and his study habits gave him everything he needed to get the better of offensive linemen. For example, as he was watching film on Purdue in 2019, he noticed right tackle Will Bramel lined up with a wide stance. He devised a plan to use a speed rush during the game, and that led to Toney recording two sacks in Penn State's 35-7 win.
"His football IQ is off the charts," Franklin said. "I couldn't be more excited about Shaka and his future at Penn State and very appreciative of how he's gone about his business."
His preparation and work ethic was an inspiration to many of his fellow defensive lineman. Even though some were more vocal or had more experience, they all viewed Toney as a leader.
"He's a big brother to me and a lot of the guys," said defensive tackle Fred Hansard. "Whenever we need something, we go to Shaka. He really cares about us."
General manager Martin Mayhew expects Toney to contribute early, and the rookie will need to continue studying if he wants that to happen. Seeing as he has the attitude of "the more you know, the faster you're going to play," that should not be a problem.
"I can see things that a lot of people won't even take the time to see," Toney said. "I'm able to make plays based on pre-snap reads because I know what's going on."
5. He's eighth all-time at Penn State in career sacks
Penn State is one of the older college football programs in the country with its first game being played in 1887. The team has seen plenty of great players in its 134-year history, and when it comes to pass-rushers, Toney is one of the best.
Toney did not make his first-career start until his redshirt junior season, but he still found a way to contribute in the previous two with 25 appearances. His four sacks in his redshirt freshman season were impressive, but Toney also generated 18 pressures on 72 pass attempts, which Pro Football Focus' Ryan Smith pointed out was third among all edge defenders, heading into November of the 2017 season.
Toney only got better from there. He had five sacks in the following season, four of which came during the fourth of Penn State's 2018 matchup with Indiana. The outing tied a program single-game record and earned Toney a spot on PFF's Big Ten Team of the Week.
"We know what Shaka is capable of doing," Penn State cornerback Amani Oruwariye said after the game. "He's kind of been under the radar a little bit but he's a guy that keeps his head down and works. When his time comes, he makes the plays that come to him."
Toney ended his career at Penn State with 20.5 sacks, which ranks eighth all-time in program history. Defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio loves having premier edge rushers on his defense, and it looks like he has another one at his disposal.
"His pass-rushing ability is elite," said Penn State defensive coordinator Brent Pry. "What people don't understand is that he's an every-down guy. He knows how to play with leverage. He might be the smartest guy on our defense, from understanding his position and mastering his craft. He's just in a really good place."