He was born on August 5, 1989 and attended Cheraw (SC) High School. As a true freshman, he started 9 games at outside linebacker, recording 26 tackles, 2 for loss, and 1 blocked kick. He moved to defensive end as a sophomore, starting all 13 games there. He finished the year with 32 tackles, 5.5 for loss, 3 sacks, 1 pass breakup, and 1 fumble recovery. As a junior, he earned All-SEC honorable mention with 47 tackles, 10 for loss, 7 sacks, 3 pass breakups, 3 forced fumbles, and 4 recoveries after starting 11 of 12 games at end. Started 14 games as a senior, recording 44 tackles, 8.5 for loss, 5.5 sacks, 1 pass breakup, and 4 forced fumbles. Was selected by the Atlanta Falcons in the seventh round (230th overall) of the 2011 NFL Draft.