Commentary

Kindle, NFL hopefuls reset at center

Michael Johnson's facility aids athletes in getting body and mind right for combine

Updated: February 17, 2010, 6:19 PM ET
By Calvin Watkins | ESPNDallas.com

McKINNEY, Texas -- The NFL draft is 64 days away and Sergio Kindle, the kid from Woodrow Wilson High in Dallas, is growing up fast.

After his senior season at the University of Texas, Kindle took a break to rest his body and is now preparing for his next day job: NFL player.

Kindle is training at the Michael Johnson Performance Center to prepare for the NFL scouting combine, which is held next week in Indianapolis. At the center, Kindle works with other NFL-bound players to get ready for the combine by running, lifting weights, vision training and preparing for the Wonderlic test.

The program has benefited players who attend the combine. In 2008, Arkansas' Darren McFadden ran the fastest 40 time at the combine, 4.31. Last year, Texas Tech's Louis Vasquez had the best bench press, with 39 reps at 225 pounds. Both had trained at the center.

Draft experts project Kindle as a first-round pick, and he could be one of the first linebackers taken in April's draft.

In four seasons as a defensive end in Austin, Kindle was credited with 148 tackles, one forced fumble and 16 sacks. Kindle said he fits in a 3-4 scheme and doesn't want to know which teams want him until draft day.

"I want them all to want me," he said.

After picking up six solo tackles and 2 sacks in Texas' loss to Alabama in the BCS National Championship Game, Kindle needed rest. He had nagging injuries, including a balky knee.

He also had to learn what it's like to prepare for the combine.

"They come in banged up after having a long season," said Lance Walker, the center's director of performance. "Usually, the first two weeks of this program is [about] putting back air into the tires. These guys come in after 12-13 weeks of banging, and they have nicks and bruises and aches and pains. So, for Sergio and some of the others, it was a process of initially just getting over the hump on some leftover rehab, not injuries."

There is an adjustment needed for all college players entering the NFL. The speed, terminology, commitment and the business side of the game all have to be addressed.

NFL teams want strong-minded players who can also play at the highest level. Kindle seems to be that guy, with his quick first step and power to get to quarterbacks.

"Just the mental part of it," has been the biggest adjustment so far, Kindle said. "You think football, but you come in here and you're face to face with 20 different coaches, and they ask you questions that don't have anything to do with football."

Johnson They spend the last four years not being able to capitalize on their celebrity, and now those shackles are off. They wanted to be anywhere else but here, but they have made the commitment.

-- Former Olympian Michael Johnson, on players preparing for the NFL combine at his center in McKinney, Texas

Kindle is working on his speed, getting off faster at the snap and making sure his technique is sound for running the 40 or executing any of the other drills necessary at the combine. His pro day, March 31, will also get scrutinized -- that's the NFL.

"I know the position these guys are in," said Johnson, a 13-time Olympic and world champion in track and field. "It's challenging for us after they have a long season. They spend the last four years not being able to capitalize on their celebrity, and now those shackles are off. They wanted to be anywhere else but here, but they have made the commitment."

Kindle is glad he's not alone. Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, projected as a No. 1 overall pick, is also working out here.

"I don't want to be anxious about it," Kindle said about the combine. "I feel like being anxious is [being] nervous at the same time. I'm excited about going and getting everything done and showcasing what we've done here and how much better we've gotten from college to now."

Calvin Watkins covers the Cowboys for ESPN Dallas. You can follow him on Twitter or leave a question for his weekly mailbag.

Calvin Watkins joined ESPNDallas.com in September 2009. He's covered the Cowboys since 2006 and also has covered colleges, boxing and high school sports.