Former Hoover High coach Pat Plummer still can, without hesitation, run through all the attributes that Eric Kendricks brought to the Patriots’ football team.
“Total football player,” Plummer said. “Leadership … great student and great physical talent.”
Kendricks did it all in high school, playing linebacker, quarterback and running back. He even handled kicking and punting duty.
As a senior in 2009, he piled up 117 tackles and also made two interceptions while earning first-team All-Bee honors. On offense, he scored 14 touchdowns.
Kendricks also played basketball and baseball, but it was football that earned him a scholarship at UCLA. He blossomed into the Bruins’ leading career tackler and a national all-star, and Plummer wasn’t surprised.
“A student of the game,” Plummer said. “I thought it was a great fit for him … a great opportunity to play the game at a high level. You never know how things turn out until you get there, but Eric had all the tools to do what exactly he did.”
Plummer kept in frequent contact and is eagerly waiting to see Kendricks take that next step, likely as one of the first 50 or so players taken when the NFL Draft begins Thursday in Chicago.
Many experts see Kendricks going late in the first round or by midway through the second.
Kendricks saved some of his best for his last college season, earning the Butkus Award and Lott IMPACT Trophy while pacing the Bruins with 149 tackles — 101 of those solo. He finished with 481 over four years to overtake Jerry Robinson for the all-time lead at the school.
Plummer also coached Eric’s brother, Mychal, now a starting inside linebacker with the Philadelphia Eagles. Together, he calls them “special football players.”
“Coached for 35 years and you don’t coach many of them,” Plummer said. “Those two guys are well grounded. Hard workers in every aspect of the game.”
Plummer couldn’t pick which Kendricks brother is the best, saying “they’re both pretty darn good.”
One difference, according to Plummer: “Eric is a little taller and longer.”
In addition to having his brother’s NFL experience to lean on, Eric Kendricks played under a former NFL head coach in the Bruins’ Jim Mora Jr.
And he has spent time in the video room studying linebacker Patrick Willis, another Butkus Award winner who was a seven-time Pro Bowler with the San Francisco 49ers before retiring this offseason.
Kendricks is in a good group as a Butkus Award honoree: In addition to Willis (Mississippi, 2006), recent winners who have gone on to star in the NFL include C.J. Mosley (Alabama, 2013), Luke Kuechly (Boston College, 2011) and Von Miller (Texas A&M, 2010).
And he remains the student of the game that Plummer remembers. That was evident when he had the opportunity to get in some mental reps as part of his preparation for the NFL Combine, reacting to simulated plays on a sophisticated virtual-reality screen at a training facility.
“We were given the option to do it,” Kendricks said. “Plays will last like a half-second and you have to know what play it is. It’s like a little test … they take a step in one direction and another and you have to decide what type of run play it was, and run or pass; and if you can figure all that out in certain amount of time, it tells you if you’re right or wrong.
“I think it’s an awesome tool.”
Plummer said Kendricks should excel in the NFL.
“He’ll be very successful,” Plummer said. “A very smart football player and he covers well; plays the run well and has great range. I think he’ll do a very good job … a similar career to what his brother is doing right now.”