Malone Wins Team MVP at the Senior Bowl: “I Feel Like I Made a Name for Myself”

MOBILE, Ala. — Former WKU Football defensive end DeAngelo Malone had a standout performance on Saturday at the 2022 Reese’s Senior Bowl. Malone was named the American Team’s Most Valuable Player after leading the squad with six total tackles, 0.5 sacks and two quarterback hurries.

In the American Team’s first defensive series of the game, Malone and LSU linebacker Damone Clark met in the backfield to sack Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett for a seven-yard loss. Malone lined up on the edge and bulldozed a blocking effort by Iowa State tight end Charlie Kolar.

Malone saw snaps throughout the entire game, showcasing his versatility by lining up as a rusher on both edges, as well as dropping back into coverage as a linebacker on a handful of plays. He added another 0.5 tackles in the first half, then both of his quarterback hurries and four more tackles in the second half.

“My goal was to come out here and play hard, play with a lot of juice and dominate. And I feel like I did that,” Malone said in the post-game press conference. “The defense did a great job – even though we didn’t come out with the win – it still was a great overall performance.”

The performance was just what Hilltopper fans had been accustomed to seeing out of Malone over his five-year WKU career. The Atlanta, Ga., native totaled 349 tackles – including 60 for loss – with 34 sacks and 45 quarterback hurries in 62 career games – 53 starts – on The Hill.

Malone’s 34 sacks are the all-time best mark in the program’s 103-season history, while his 60 tackles for loss rank second (behind Sherrod Coates’ 75). His 349 total tackles rank second in the program’s FBS Era (behind safety Devon Key’s 350). In addition, the 53 starts are the most of any defender in program history and rank tied for second among all Hilltoppers (behind Brandon Ray’s 54).

Upon arriving in Mobile on Monday, Malone measured in at 6-foot-3 1/4-inches tall and 234 pounds. All week long, he dispelled concerns about not being strong enough, showing multiple pass-rushing moves and run-defending techniques.

Malone was the lone Group of Five player in the American Team’s defensive line group, which included seven draft prospects from the SEC. Among the 15 combined defensive linemen and linebackers on the squad, only Malone and App State’s D’Marco Jackson were from Group of Five programs. And Jackson also produced six total tackles in the Senior Bowl on Saturday.

“Just getting the invitation here was a blessing, it’s big for the program and my family,” he said. “The experience was tremendous. I learned a lot, there was great competition here and I felt like I learned from those guys in my position group, too.”

During the week, Detroit Lions outside linebackers coach Kelvin Sheppard worked closely with Malone. Sheppard played at LSU from 2007-to-2010 and was selected in the third round of the 2011 NFL Draft. After an eight-year NFL career, Sheppard’s first year as an NFL coach was this past one for the Lions.

During Thursday’s practice, one interaction between Malone and Sheppard stood out the most – when Malone disrupted a counter run play by laying out the pulling tight end, Sheppard erupted from the sidelines to give Malone a congratulatory bump.

“Coach Sheppard, the outside linebacker coach, he’s a great guy, straightforward type of guy,” Malone said. “I just felt comfortable around him.”

After the game ended, Malone was pulled aside by a Senior Bowl representative to be presented with the American Team’s MVP award on the field. Executive Director Jim Nagy gave him the trophy and the two spoke for a minute after video and photos were taken.

Upon receiving the award, Malone went straight for the sideline with a big smile, where his family and supporting group of at least a dozen was waiting for him. He handed the trophy to his mom in the stands and stood for a few minutes, taking pictures and signing autographs for the surrounding fans.

“Winning the award, I can’t do nothing but just give God the glory, man, it’s big,” he said. “I definitely feel like I improved in some areas this week and I feel like I made a name for myself.”

Malone will focus the next few weeks on training prior to the NFL Draft Combine in early March in Indianapolis, Ind., and then WKU’s Pro Day on March 31 at Houchens-Smith Stadium.