Kinder Can't Wait

Derek Kinder described himself as the old guy in Pitt's wide receivers corp, and while it's hardly fair to hang that moniker on a 22-year-old the fifth-year senior certainly is the most experienced and celebrated wideout among a deep group.

In fact, Derek Kinder, who was fortunate to have a redshirt year available after suffering an injury to his right knee and having surgery early in camp last August, readily admits that he won't reclaim his starting flanker spot for Pittsburgh just by walking back onto the practice field during training camp.

"We've got so much depth in our receiving corps, so I'm definitely going to have to come back in here and earn my spot,'' Kinder said. "I need to show to the coaches, and even prove to myself, that I've still got it.

"I don't think that I've lost anything, but it's definitely going to be a good little competition this summer. Maybe all season. I'm the old guy on the block, but I'm going to go out there and show these young guys that I can hang with them. And I think they'll find that out pretty quickly.''

Kinder probably was half joking, with the last part, anyway, but the Panthers certainly don't believe he has anything to prove. Redshirt junior Oderick Turner and junior T.J. Porter, who took over Kinder's starting spot last fall, always praised Kinder for his work ethic and leadership.

That duo, as well as sophomore Mo Williams -- who will redshirt this fall to improve his academic standing -- redshirt junior Cedric McGee, redshirt freshmen Aaron Smith and Aundre Wright, and incoming freshmen Jonathan Baldwin and Michael Shanahan could all something about route-running and tenacious downfield blocking from Kinder.

And after watching Kinder run around during spring drills, as well as in offseason workouts, he appears to be all the way back.

"I feel real good right now,'' Kinder said. "This probably is about the best that I've felt since the injury. I've been running with the other guys in 7-on-7s, and I'm not holding back in anything. I feel really good, and I am so ready to go. It's been a long 10-11 months, and I just want to get back on the field. I can't wait for the atmosphere for that first game against Bowling Green.

"I want to get the season started and get back into the swing of things, because I've been working very hard to get to this point. It hasn't been all bad. I had a chance to finish my degree and will start a second one in the fall, so it definitely benefitted me in that way. And I've also had additional year to grow physically and mentally as well, so not everything was bad about the injury.''

Kinder is a thoughtful and intelligent young man who certainly appears to have his head on straight. No matter where his future lies, in professional football or in the business world, it's a good bet that Kinder will excel. And his strong will was enhanced during the long rehab time after his injury. But it took a while.

"When the injury happened,'' Kinder noted, "I was real down about it, wondering why it happened. It tests your faith a little bit, but in discussing it with some people they told me that everything happens for a reason. All that matters now for me is where I take it from here, to make it a new opportunity.

"So, that's the way I'm looking at it. Thankfully, I was able to come in here and play as a freshman, and that worked out for me in the long run since I needed the redshirt year to be able to play another season as a fifth-year senior. Who would have ever thought about that back then?''

Now, it's all Kinder can think about, his good fortune and additional opportunities, and he can't wait to take advantage of them.

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