Kendricks, Bears Ready For 2011 Season
By Alex Shoemaker
There are 120 FBS schools in major college football and nearly 15,000 players in the country. Only 250 players get drafted each year to play in the National Football League. Linebacker Mychal Kendricks enters his senior season for the California Bears dreaming of the day that he, too, gets to make it into the league.
For those who only know Kendricks as the hard-nose football player who dishes out backbreaking hits, there is so much more to know.
"I love Disney movies, I've always loved kids' movies," said Kendricks. "I love cartoons and kids' shows. I like 'Lion King' and 'Finding Nemo,' those are two of my favorites."
It's hard to believe that a player with such a tough mentality on the football field doesn't carry it into his personal life, but Kendricks has a "work hard, play hard" approach to life. Kendricks likes the "tough guy" persona, but says his close friends and family know who the real Mychal is.
"Off the field I'm an easy-going guy who's down-to-earth, but on the field I'm real serious," said Kendricks. "It's all business once it's game time."
For Kendricks and his teammates, business opens Saturday, September 3 against the Fresno State Bulldogs at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, home field of the 49ers. Having been raised in Fresno as child, Kendricks says he felt pressure from friends to keep his talents near home, recalling a game between the Bulldogs and the Oregon Ducks before he began the recruiting process.
"It was crazy," said Kendricks. "Being in that stadium I could see myself playing ball here."
A lot of Kendricks' friends and family will be in attendance for the game, and some of his friends will be lining up against him in Fresno State uniforms. Even though there will be some extra attention on him given the hometown connection, he does not feel any additional pressure going into the opener.
"I feel pressure every game to go out and do my best," he said. "I know a lot of those guys, but it's just the next game. We need to go out and win the game. I can't think about anything other than the game and to play football."
In high school, Kendricks received offers from a number of schools including Oregon, Oregon State and eventually the Cal Bears. Going to Berkeley gave the Hoover High school graduate the ability to leave Fresno but still stay close to home.
"Just because I know those guys doesn't mean I won't be ready to go," he said. "They want to win, too. We all take the game seriously."
Kendricks expects to graduate in the spring with a degree in social welfare, but his dream is to make it into the NFL. Kendricks is projected by many experts to be a mid-round prospect in the 2012 NFL Draft, but the unknown of his life after college has him a little worried.
"It's a scary thought," he said. "Once I graduate, it's all on me."
With his speed, toughness and playmaking ability, Kendricks seems to be properly aligned to play on Sundays. No matter how that turns out, the Fresno native does have plans to return to Cal in the not-so-distant future.
"I want to go back and get a second major in sociology," he says. "It's the smart thing to do. I'm only, I think, six classes away."
First, though, is Fresno State and the 2011 football season.
"I've got a lot to work for," Kendricks said. "A lot of people counting on me."