Eric Kendricks is rejoining his former UCLA teammate and roommate in the NFL.
The former Hoover High star was selected in the second round (45th overall) by the Minnesota Vikings at the NFL draft in Chicago on Friday and will play with linebacker Anthony Barr once again.
Kendricks is the first Butkus Award winner drafted by the Vikings since E.J. Henderson in 2003. Henderson, coincidentally, took the stage to announce Kendrick’s selection.
“When I got the call and they were kind of going over it, it took me at least a minute to really realize what was happening, and where I was going and who I was playing with,” Kendricks said on a conference call. “I was in complete shock and I got so happy.”
Barr was all smiles when talking to Vikings.com.
“Oh man, I can’t believe it,” he said. “That was my old college roommate. Things like this don’t happen. It’s crazy. I’m happy for him. Obviously, I’m a little biased but I think we got a great player. That’s a great pick and I’m so happy right now. I feel like I just got drafted again.”
Said ESPN’s Todd McShay of Kendricks: “He is the best coverage linebacker in this draft. He lacks ideal size and power for the position in run defense, but he makes up for it with very good overall range and his quick diagnosis of plays. He’s a playmaker against both the run and the pass.”
As a senior at UCLA last fall, Kendricks also was the winner of the Lott IMPACT Trophy.
He is the seventh former Hoover High player to be drafted. The others were Rod Perry (1975, Los Angeles Rams), Henry Ellard (1983, Los Angeles Rams), Rod Horn (1980, Cincinnati Bengals), Bob Glazebrook (1978, Oakland Raiders), Kevin Robinson (2008, Kansas City Chiefs) and older brother Mychal Kendricks (2012, Philadelphia Eagles). Lee Harris and Ryan Wetnight signed as undrafted free agents and spent time in the NFL.
Mychal Kendricks was also taken in the second round (46th overall).
“Great opportunity for him,” former Hoover High coach Pat Plummer said. “All the hard work he put in in the classroom and on the field ... he deserves everything he gets. What a great day for him. I’m happy for him and positive he’ll do very well. It’ll be fun watching them both.”
As a Hoover senior in 2009, Kendricks piled up 117 tackles and also made two interceptions while earning first-team All-Bee honors. On offense, he scored 14 touchdowns.
Kendricks saved some of his best for his last college season, pacing the Bruins with 149 tackles to finish with a UCLA career-record 481.
“The most productive collegiate inside linebacker over the last three years,” NFL Network media draft analyst Lance Zierlein wrote of Eric Kendricks.
Kendricks is in a good group as a Butkus Award honoree: In addition to Patrick 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).
“I’ve been waiting for this entire moment my entire life,” Kendricks said. “Being with one of my best friends and my old teammate, Anthony Barr, that’s just another blessing in disguise. This is an awesome opportunity that I’m blessed with.”
Cornerback Steven Nelson, who played for College of the Sequoias in 2011-12, was selected in the third round (98th overall) by the Kansas City Chiefs. In two seasons with Oregon State, Nelson had 122 tackles and eight interceptions.
Several players with ties to the Fresno area could get drafted today during the fourth through seventh rounds: Former Fresno State stars Derron Smith, Josh Harper and Tyeler Davison along with Deontay Greenberry (Washington High) and Tevin McDonald (Edison High).