CINCINNATI — Carlos Dunlap insisted he's learned from his costly DUI arrest. The Cincinnati Bengals believed him.
The Bengals chose the defensive end from Florida in the second round Friday, looking to get another lineman who can rush the quarterback. They're aware this one must grow up before he can grow into a regular role with one of the league's emerging defenses.
"He's going to know from when he comes in here tomorrow what kind of guy we want in this program," defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer said. "He'll know right off the get-go."
The 6-foot-6, 277-pound defensive end missed the Southeastern Conference title game following a drunken-driving arrest on Dec. 1. Gainesville police found him passed out behind the wheel at an intersection, prompting the school to suspend him. He was reinstated three weeks later and had two sacks in a Sugar Bowl win over Cincinnati.
Dunlap pleaded no contest to driving under the influence on Jan. 29, got a year's probation and 50 hours of community service.
The court case, his practice habits and a penchant for easing up during games had analysts rating him as no better than a second-round pick.
"Hey, they're going to talk about a lot of things," Dunlap said after going to Cincinnati with the 54th overall pick. "Right now, I'm just taking all that in as motivation and looking forward to my NFL career and proving everyone wrong."
Dunlap led the SEC with 9½ sacks in 2008 and blocked three kicks, including one during a 24-14 win over Oklahoma in the BCS title game. He had nine sacks last season, when he started at left defensive end.
The Bengals won the AFC North last season with a young defense that finished fourth in the league. One of its few weaknesses was an inability to get pressure on the quarterback from the middle of the line. Zimmer plans to use Dunlap at a tackle spot initially.
"One of the things I've talked about in the off-season is getting more pressure on the quarterback from up the middle," Zimmer said.
Dunlap had to convince the Bengals that he wouldn't be a problem in Cincinnati, which repeatedly got burned by taking high-risk draft picks in the mid-2000s.
"That was the only incident on my record," Dunlap said. "Pretty much, I told them that was my first and last incident. I learned from it. I apologized to everyone."
The Bengals believed him.
"The people that we talked to said the kid is a tremendous kid," Zimmer said. "He's a 3.0 student. His Wonderlic test was off the charts high. And everyone we talked to said — 'this is a one-time shot, the kid made a mistake, he's not this type of guy at all.'"