When Sam Cowart was a freshman linebacker at Florida State in '93, teammate Derrick Brooks tagged him with a daunting nickname that would stick for the rest of Cowart's college career: NFL. Five years later Cowart fulfilled the prophecy as Buffalo's top choice in the '98 draft. Coach Wade Phillips compares Cowart's quickness and instincts to those of the player he replaced, Chris Spielman. Phillips marvels at Cowart's ability to start five yards off the line of scrimmage yet still make tackles in the backfield. "I was a running back in high school," Cowart says, "so when the ball is snapped, I put myself in the running back's shoes and ask myself, Where would I go? Then I meet him there."