It's something that most college teammates can only dream about. But the Vikings seem to be making a habit of it in recent years. Minnesota has taken teammates from Notre Dame, USC, Florida State, and Arkansas over the past several drafts; they can now add UCLA to that list.
At first, they couldn't believe it. Anthony Barr took to Twitter to express his surprise. Eric Kendricks could barely say anything when he got the call. The former Bruins teammates were suddenly brand new Vikings teammates. Barr explained why he was so thrilled:
I'm so excited. He was my roommate in college and now we're on the same NFL team. Stuff like this doesn't happen. It's pretty special. I'm excited for myself because we have such a good relationship and for the team because I know we're going to do great things.
Contrary to what some would assume, Barr didn't give Mike Zimmer or the Vikings front office any insight on his former teammate. He wasn't in contact with his coach or front office about Kendricks leading up to the draft. He didn't even think the Vikings drafting Kendricks was a possibility. "There are 32 NFL teams you know. And what are the odds that he's our choice in the second round?" Barr described what kind of player Kendricks is:
He's a very tough player. He's very smart, physical, hard-working. He's a natural leader. I think he's just gonna do great things for us and I couldn't be happier.
Barr continued by saying how having a familiar face far from home is a real benefit for both of them. With the addition of two defensive players to start the draft, Barr believes that the Vikings can become a top 5 defense if they can improve against the run and execute their scheme more. He thinks that Kendricks is ready for the next step "Being at UCLA for five years, watching him maturing and growing up...I know how much he loves the game of football. He's definitely NFL ready."
Kendricks definitely appears to be ready to handle the NFL media. He was really excited for his first conference call as an NFL player.
I've been waiting for this moment my whole life. I couldn't be more proud and happy to be part of this organization, especially being with one of my best friends and old roommate Anthony Barr. That's just another blessing in disguise. This is just an awesome opportunity that I'm blessed with and I can't wait to play.
Kendricks shared Barr's surprise when he first learned of the pick.
Oh man when I first got the call and they were going over it, it took me at least a minute to really realize what was happening, where I was going, and who I was playing with. I really felt like it was kind of disrespectful because I wasn't saying much! But I was just in complete shock. Once it finally clicked I got so happy and the rest just took off from there.
When Kendricks talked to Barr there was even more shock:
I texted [Barr] right before the pick came in and he thought I was joking around with him. He kind of just went, "you're joking right?" I'm like "yeah" and he's like "nahhhhh". As soon as the pick came in he called me on the phone and I couldn't hear a word he said. It was just a bunch of mumbo jumbo and laughing and excitement. So he's happy that I'm there too.
As with Barr, the Vikings didn't have a ton of contact with Kendricks before the pick. Outside of a meeting at the Combine he didn't have much communication with the team. However he was able to gather that the Vikings seem to want him to play inside linebacker, which would likely leave Barr and Chad Greenway as the starting outside linebackers.
While Barr had some schooling to finish up at UCLA before he could attend mini-camp last year, Kendricks claimed that he had already graduated with a Political Science major from UCLA--with a 3.2 GPA. Many pundits claimed that a lingering knee injury had scared some teams off, which allowed him to slide into the second round. Kendricks was adamant that this isn't the case:
I've never had a knee injury. Knock on wood. I have had an ankle injury this past season but it's feeling great and it's better than ever.
Kendricks claimed that he figured he was going to be picked somewhere in the 25-50 range and he wasn't really worried about where he would end up but it was still a nerve wracking experience. While he knows that learning a new defense and terminology will be a challenge, he expects to compete for a starting job right away.
Stay tuned for more from Rick Spielman and Mike Zimmer later tonight, who's sure to be very pleased with the new toys he gets to play with in his defense.