Devon Kennard won’t be in the green room at Radio Music City Hall in New York where all the glitz, glamour and Roger Goodell await.
Instead he will be with his family and some friends, while keeping it low key at his parent’s home in Ahwatukee.
Location for the NFL Draft doesn’t change the goal.
Kennard has been on a path, despite several starts and stops, to the NFL since his playing days with Desert Vista and through his five years at Southern California.
It’s about to come to fruition at some point this weekend. He won’t be taken during Thursday’s first round, but the other six rounds should lead to the 6-foot-3, 249-pound outside linebacker finding out where his NFL odyssey begins.
“It’s an exciting time, and it’s just around the corner after focusing on it for so long,” Kennard said earlier this week. “I’m anxious to find out where I end up. I’m taking phone calls from teams and just waiting for someone to take a chance on me.”
The projections are all over the place for Kennard. He has the pedigree — his father Derek played 11 years in the NFL as an offensive linemen — the physical tools, leadership, self motivation and willingness to put in work.
The scouts are questioning his explosiveness and agility based on his 30-inch vertical and 7.25-second three-cone time at the combine. Others have cited stuff as silly as small hands and short arms and not providing enough resistance against the run.
None of that matters to Kennard at this point. He knows every player is torn apart and dissected by NFL personnel. It’s part of the process. Kennard knows he is an NFL player and all he wants is a chance.
“In my heart I knew I was going to make it happen,” he said. “Through all of the injuries, surgeries and setbacks I worked harder and prepared for a shot in the NFL. That goal never changed.”
Kennard, who earned an undergraduate degree in communication along with a master’s in communication management, played in the East-West Shrine game, went through the combine and his pro day, along with individual interviews, where everything was recorded and digested to formulate a player’s draft position.
What they haven’t measured is the time he has put in since he played his last down after five years of being a Trojan.
He spent time at Athletic Gains in Sherman Oaks, Calif., and ProEdge Train in Chandler to make sure he’s ready to go as soon as he has to report, which could be as early as Monday.
“I’ve grown so much as a player mentally and understanding what it takes the last few months,” Kennard said. “I know the game even more. I am faster and smarter. I’m a developing player with instincts for the game.
“I know I can bring so much to an organization. I’ve played different positions under different coaches; I can rush the passer, play special teams, and be effective at many different things.”
Kennard’s numbers (13 career sacks) at USC were underwhelming considering the potential he showed at Desert Vista when he has 24 sacks as a junior. The four surgeries and several position changes had much to do with it, but the one thing no one can question was the respect he earned from the people who know him best.
He was also voted by his teammates as USC’s Most Inspirational Player and won the Trojan Way Leadership Award along with being named second-team All-Pac-12 second team while being one of the team’s captains.
“Devon has always been a leader,” Thunder coach Dan Hinds said. “It doesn’t matter where he ends up or what he does, Devon always commands attention.”
It should lead to some team, most likely a team that has a 3-4 defensive scheme, selecting Kennard in the draft, somewhere between rounds five through seven. If it doesn’t happen then he will land somewhere as a non-drafted free agent.
NFLDraftScout.com list Kennard as the 17th best available outside linebacker and predicts him to go in the fifth or sixth round as the 190th overall prospect.
The teams most often linked to Kennard thus far are Atlanta, Philadelphia, Miami, New Orleans and Houston.
All it takes is one.
“From my understanding no one really knows until it happens,” he said. “I think I am going to go in the middle rounds. If that’s the case, hopefully it is sooner rather than later. I just want an opportunity. I am healthy and ready to excel. All it takes is one team to believe in me and for that I will give them everything I have to prove them right.”
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