As a young man, learning about football, the first thing my father taught me was, when building a defense, you start from the ball out. The middle of a defense, is important on so many levels, in the game of football. With the right man or men, in the middle of the defense, it is a lot easier to set the tone, of a game. With that in mind, enter Virginia Tech, bug man, DT Mario Kendricks. At 6-1, 295 LBs, Kendricks both looks the part and has the tools to be a dominant force, against opposing offenses.
Recently, I sat down with the Kissimmee, Florida, native, and picked his brain, on playing in the ACC, the toughest QB, he has ever faced, and what set him apart from other defenders?
” Man, when you play in the ACC, you gotta be prepared. You really have to be ready to face the best of the best, every week. There is talent at every level, of every team, in the ACC.”
Moving forward, I asked him if he felt any pressure playing at this level?
“Pressure? no, not really. I mean really at the end of the day it’s all football. It’s the same for me. The ACC is a tough place to play in, but I know I am built for it. I know I was made to play at this level and beyond. So no, I don’t really feel any pressure to play here. I work hard, keep myself ready both physically and mentally, so I know I am ready to play. I am always ready to go,”
Playing in the ACC, there is never a lack of talent. No matter the position, you will always be able to find a star player to hitch your wagon too. knowing the amount of talent that Kendricks faces on a weekly basis, I asked him, who he thought was the toughest Quarterback, he has ever faced?
“I know a lot of people would say, Trevor Lawrence, from Clemson, and he is good. He really is a heck of a player, so I see why people would say that, or think that. But man, for me, I would say, Malik Cunningham, from over in Louisville. Man, that guy is a monster. He can do it all, and he is really tough to bring down. He’s so fast and twitchy, he can make it hard on defense. Great arm and a lot of speed to take off and run. So while Lawrence is a beast, I would pick Malik Cunningham, that man is a good one.”
Watching the tape on Kendricks, the one thing that stood out to me, other than his dominant form. Was his speed and burst coming out of his stance, and bashing offensive lines. For such a big man, he moves with light feet, which helps him run down runners, and attack the quarterback. I asked him what this was attributed to? and what he felt set him apart from other defensive linemen?
“As far as coming out of my stance, and having that initial burst, that is something that they instilled in me back in high school. I was a defensive end, in high school, so I had to have that speed to come off the edge. So I think that is why I have that initial burst. As far as what stands out about me, or what sets me apart, I would say my speed for my size. Being able to run down a runner, or attack the line quickly. I think also, the hard work I put in every day. I work really hard to be at the level I am at, and I am only trying to get better. I feel like I have so much to go, so much more to give, and my work ethic is untouched. I want to be the best version of me, I want to be known as one of the best ever. So that pushes me to work harder every day. What sets me apart, is I am a dog, and I ain’t gonna be outworked.”
Watching the tape on the big man, it is easy to come away, excited about his potential. He has a real swagger to his game and brings a violent nature to his position. On the field Kendricks has the tools, and skill set, to take lover a game. No matter if it’s in the run game, or in the passing game. Kendricks has the ability, to be a legit problem for years to come. Both at the college level, as well as the next.