Worrilow Hall sits on the University of Delaware’s South Campus among a collection of buildings that includes the football stadium where Paul Worrilow starred for the Blue Hens, and not far from his mother’s office at the English Language Institute.
“No relation,” Paul Worrilow said of the building’s name. “I checked on that when I got there.”
So it’s only a coincidence that Worrilow shares a name with the building that houses Delaware’s Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources. But he certainly has strong roots on the campus and in the state.
Worrilow played at Concord High School in Wilmington, which is about a 30-minute drive from Delaware’s campus. After a football sojourn to Kansas, he felt the pull of his home state and returned to play for the Blue Hens.
Now Worrilow is turning heads as a rookie linebacker in training camp with the Falcons. After a strong debut in the exhibition opener against the Bengals last week, he is in line for more playing time Thursday at Baltimore.
“Delaware was always where I wanted to end up,” Worrilow said. “If they would have offered (initially), I would have gone. But I can’t argue with the way it worked out. Looking back, I wouldn’t change a thing.”
Worrilow’s maternal grandmother predicted that’s how it would turn out after Paul left Delaware for Coffeyville (Kan.) Community College.
Mary Beth Worrilow recalls that her mother said Paul wouldn’t be happy in Kansas. He’s close to his family, which includes three brothers (Paul is No. 3 in the order). Plus, Kansas isn’t exactly Delaware.
“I said, ‘No, mom, we can’t stand in front of his dreams. Let him go, he will be fine,’” Mary Beth Worrilow said. “He went out there and a got a little bit homesick and was itching to get back. I think his heart was always in Delaware.”
Eventually Worrilow received an offer to walk-on at Delaware. Because he had redshirted at Coffeyville he retained four seasons of eligibility.
Because of his mother’s work, Paul said he “spent my whole life on campus” before he went to school there. Mary Beth Worrilow has been an English as a second-language instructor at Delaware’s English Language Institute since 1988 and currently is the Business ESL Coordinator.
The connection means Worrilow has fans from around the world. Mary Beth Worrilow introduced some of her international students to American football and recalled that Paul once was driving on campus with her as a passenger when they gave a lift to an ESL student from Japan.
“She gets in the car and says, ‘Are you Paul?’ You (are) superstar!’” she said. “It just stuck.”
It was an appropriate moniker for Paul at Delaware, where he was a four-year starter, a three-time All-Conference selection and finished fifth all-time in tackles for the Blue Hens. That’s after Worrilow received no NCAA Division I or II scholarship offers out of high school in spite of being the state’s defensive player of the year as a senior.
Worrilow said he was about 250 pounds in high school (he also played offensive guard) “without blazing speed.”
“I can’t blame ’em,” he said of the schools that overlooked him.
Worrilow, who now weighs about 230 pounds, said he “had to work hard to get where I am at athletically.” He also made an impact off the field at Delaware, most notably when he donated peripheral blood stem cells to benefit a leukemia patient.
Worrilow had signed up for a bone-marrow program at Delaware in 2011 and soon was notified that he was a match for an anonymous 21-year-old patient. He agreed to undergo the six-hour procedure that involved removing his blood and spinning out the cells.
Delware’s athletic department recently honored Worrilow with the Edgar Johnson Award for his athletic accomplishments and community work. He missed the ceremony because he was in Flowery Branch participating in offseason activities with the Falcons.
There’s a chance Worrilow’s time with the Falcons will last beyond training camp. He had nine tackles in only three series of play in the first half against the Bengals and finished with a team-high 11 stops. Coach Mike Smith said Worrilow would get more playing time against the Ravens on Thursday.
Worrilow’s family plans to make the trip to Baltimore to watch Paul play. He will reunite with Ravens lineman Gino Gradkowski, a teammate at Delaware. Ravens star quarterback Joe Flacco also played for the Blue Hens.
The game is another chance for the former junior-college player and FCS walk-on to make it in the NFL.
“I think he is approaching it like everything he does,” Mary Beth Worrilow said. “He is just a super-committed kind of guy with any responsibility you give him. He has a commitment and passion for the game that runs so profoundly deep.”