The Oakland Raiders bolstered their linebacker corps Wednesday, signing Curtis Lofton, a player who has accumulated at least 100 tackles in each of his last six seasons.
He joins the Raiders after spending the last three years with the New Orleans Saints, serving as a defensive team captain the past seasons.
"I think the No. 1 thing that attracted me to the Raiders is just the passion," said Lofton. "The energy, just the positive feeling that we're going to get this thing turned around. Why not win now?"
Born in Kingfisher, Okla., Lofton accepted a scholarship to play football close to home at the University of Oklahoma, where he played sparingly during his freshman season.
Photos of new Raiders linebacker, Curtis Lofton.
His playing time increased the next season, and at the end of his junior year he earned First-Team All-American honors from the Football Writers Association of America, as well as Second-Team All-American recognition from the Associated Press.
As a result of his success as a junior, Lofton elected to forego his senior season at Oklahoma and declared for the 2008 NFL Draft, eventually being selected by the Atlanta Falcons in the second round (No. 37 overall).
Lofton's selection proved immediate dividends for the Falcons as he started 15 games his rookie year, tallying 94 total tackles and one sack.
The former Oklahoma Sooner spent the next three seasons in Atlanta, starting all 16 games each year before signing with the New Orleans Saints prior to the 2012 season.
During his three seasons in New Orleans, Lofton maintained his iron man persona, starting all 48 games that he was in uniform for the Saints, including the team's 2013 playoff victory over the Philadelphia Eagles.
"That's definitely my pride," Lofton said, talking about his durability. "There have been times when I didn't think I was going to be able to play and I found it within to play. I think I've got this burning force inside of me that loves to compete, and I feel like anytime I'm on the field, I give my team a great chance to win."
In addition to his production on the field, Lofton's presence provides a young Raiders defense with a wealth of postseason experience, making four postseason appearances during his seven years in the league.
The 28-year-old joins a corps of linebackers on the rise in Oakland, headlined by former first-round pick Khalil Mack who turned in an impressive rookie campaign in 2014, notching 4.0 sacks and one forced fumble during his 16 starts.
"I think my role here is I'm going to be the middle linebacker and kind of the quarterback of the defense," Lofton said. "Kind of help these young guys get lined up. Take charge and they brought me here to win."
In addition to providing young linebackers like Mack and Sio Moore with a veteran presence in the middle, Lofton sees Oakland as a location to continue to improve on his game.
"Coach Del Rio was a linebacker, played linebacker, Ken Norton, Jr., he played linebacker, and then [linebackers coach] coach [Sal] Sunseri, they all played linebacker," Lofton said. "They're going to see it how I see it and I think they can help me take my game to the next level."
Headed into 2015 Lofton has a lot of work ahead of him, learning the playbook and working to become adequately prepared to quarterback the defense, but the former Sooner is ready to get to work.
"I think that I've been given some tools that will help me get into the book, this playbook, and start learning, and I'll do that," he said. "Coaches are still getting things together, so I feel like I'm definitely going to immerse myself as much as possible and learn the little bit they gave me and knock that out, so when I come back, I've got a jumpstart. But I've always been a fast learner."