Texas Defensive End Sergio Kindle Hopes to Follow in Former Longhorn Brian Orakpo's Footsteps

Defensive end Sergio Kindle plans to graduate early to focus on next year's NFL draft.
Defensive end Sergio Kindle plans to graduate early to focus on next year's NFL draft. (Harry Cabluck - Associated Press)
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By Zach Berman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Before third downs last season, Texas defensive ends Brian Orakpo and Sergio Kindle broke from the huddle like a pair of college students who had just determined where to spend a Saturday afternoon.

"I'll meet you at the quarterback," they said to each other before embarking on mad dashes toward the offensive backfield for a Longhorns defense that led the nation with 47 sacks. Orakpo was the star of the unit, a status validated by the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, awarded annually to college football's best defensive player, and by the Washington Redskins, who selected Orakpo in the first round of April's NFL draft.

Kindle was the understudy, and could have followed Orakpo to the NFL. Instead, Kindle returned and enters the 2009 season as the premier defensive player on the nation's second-ranked team.

"It can happen to you," Orakpo said he told Kindle. "The same type of steps I took to get where I'm at, I see for him. And that was a real big influential situation to him coming back."

Kindle is trying to duplicate Orakpo's senior season, right down to his academic schedule. Orakpo graduated after the fall semester and enjoyed an unburdened spring to prepare for the draft. Kindle is prepared to follow that timetable at his friend's recommendation.

The players are built almost identically -- Orakpo played last season at 6 feet 4 and 260 pounds, while Kindle is 6-4, 255 -- and share a similar skill set. Part of Orakpo's appeal for the Redskins was his versatility. As a hybrid defensive end-outside linebacker, Orakpo ably rotates between positions depending on the situation.

Kindle, who arrived at Texas as a linebacker, also plays a hybrid role. He did not move to defensive end until last season, when defensive coordinator Will Muschamp figured Kindle's speed around the edge would help solidify the Longhorns' pass rush.

"With Sergio on the other side, it became a good distraction," Longhorns defensive ends coach Oscar Giles said of the Orakpo-Kindle combination. "You need to focus in on this guy who had 10 sacks. It's the kind of deal where Coach Muschamp thought, 'Just use the athletic ability and get to the quarterback.' "

Giles said Orakpo played a large role in Kindle's transition to defensive end. Kindle emulated Orakpo in the weight room and learned the subtleties of the position. Already friends, the move brought them closer.

"When they transitioned me to defensive end, they were doing it to get something similar to Rak," Kindle said. "The person I talked to was Rak. He was the person that they wanted me to mimic. He's like a mentor. He's a teacher, a buddy. I can talk to him about anything."

Orakpo jokes about Kindle trying to sing R&B tunes even though he lacks the voice. Kindle responds that Orakpo teases him only because Orakpo has a deep "Barry White" voice, whereas Kindle sings with a higher pitch.

The barbs have continued to flow from Austin to Ashburn. Kindle teased Orakpo about his modest statistics in the Redskins' preseason opener, but Orakpo said Kindle does not know how the preseason works. Kindle had the next laugh, though, when a friend e-mailed him a photo of Orakpo taped to a goalpost at Redskins training camp.

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