LOS ANGELES – Assuming the NFL eventually dispenses with its bolts and chains, and the national fall ritual can recommence, Marcell Dareus(notes) won't be coming into the league through the side entrance.
Dareus, the No.3 overall pick of the Buffalo Bills in last month's NFL draft, could be the league's most colorful and outspoken newcomer. Even before the defensive tackle from Alabama has recorded a single pro stat, he is quickly gaining a reputation as a character in which to take notice.
In between private workouts, the 21-year-old has spent much of the recent labor standoff issuing bold predictions about the extent of his future impact in the NFL, while also clearing some time to spend with his pets (a python and a Chihuahua), and his alter ago.
That's right, his alter ego. Off the field Dareus is an engaging and humorous figure, who apparently had Derek Jeter in stitches when they met at a pre-draft event in New York. Within the gridiron though, he reinvents himself as the Incredible Hulk, and will politely request that his new Bills teammates address him as such during game action.
Forthright statements of intent from NFL rookies are not exactly a new phenomenon. However, Dareus takes things a step further by not only detailing what he is going to do in the NFL, but also suggesting how long he is going to do it for, and who he is going to do it to. All in all, it makes for thoroughly entertaining listening.
"The NFL needs to know the Hulk is coming," Dareus told Yahoo! Sports at an NFL players rookies event at a school in Santa Monica, Calif. last week. "The Hulk takes control, he doesn't let anything get past or anything get in the way. That is what I call myself and before I go out to play I get myself into that state of mind. It helps me get ready.
"It is like I turn into something different and I hope the other guys will call me Hulk. The Hulk is planning to be around for a long time. I am looking at a long career, I think I can play in this league for 12, 13, 14 years and be one of the great ones in my position.
"I have respect for the league and the players in it but I know I can hold myself with those guys too and be a part of it all. I know I can make a difference and I just want to go and do it as soon as I can. There are definitely some teams I have got my eye on."
In particular, Dareus has his sights set on the Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos, who bypassed him in favor of Auburn quarterback sensation Cam Newton(notes) and Big 12 sack leader Von Miller(notes) of Texas A&M, respectively.
While Dareus' impoverished upbringing in Birmingham, Ala., means that he is relishing the chance to earn his first paycheck and provide for his family of six brothers and a sister, more than anything he is desperate to exact some personal vengeance on Carolina and Denver.
"I want to show that they made the wrong move and I feel I was the best guy and the best choice," he said. "I have a point to prove to those teams and I can do that by going out and putting on some hurt.
"I worked my butt off to make my football a certain way. That way is that I dominate, I control everything across my space. That is what those teams missed out on and I am looking forward to seeing them and saying 'Hello, this is what you could have had.' "
Dareus will get an opportunity to take on the Broncos this season, while he may have to wait until 2013 before he can take a shot at the Panthers.
While Dareus' vocal bravado is his most distinguishing factor, it is underpinned by an active mind with a strong social conscience. As well as looking after his family, he has resolved to take steps to engage in charity work and to use his football salary for positive purposes.
As a child Dareus spent a brief period in foster care due to his mother's ongoing heart ailment, and is committed to setting up an orphanage to assist underprivileged boys in Birmingham.
"I was an orphan for a while when I was a kid," he said. "We were taken away from home and put in an orphanage and it wasn't real good. It was a bad experience and I didn't like it and I want to try to change all that.
"There were a bunch of boys pretty much all on top of each other, there wasn't much room and the food was bad. It was an unhappy time until my Mom could get us back."
Dareus' mother Michele Luecky died last year and he plans to name the orphanage in her honor. "Everything I do is in her memory," he said. "Charity football, everything. Especially the football. Hopefully soon I can stop talking about it and start doing it."