Those plans had to be delayed one year, however, as Derek Kinder tore the anterior cruciate in his right knee early in training camp that summer and missed the entire season. Fortunately, he had a redshirt year to spare and came back for a solid fifth season last fall with 36 catches for 422 yards and three scores.
More than two months after Pittsburgh season ended at the Sun Bowl, Kinder proclaimed his knee to be at 100 percent for the first time since that preseason day when he ran a pass pattern during a non-contact drill and was injured. Kinder has worked hard to prepare for the upcoming NFL Draft and was in great shape, but it seemed that the only thing people cared about was his knee.
"Quite naturally, the scouts all asked me about the injury, but I believe they all saw that it didn't hamper me in any way now,'' Kinder said. "That wasn't the case last season. It felt good, but there were limitations with the brace.
"You really can't move the way you'd like with it on, but I had to wear it for precautionary reasons. I guess I was at 80 percent, maybe as high as 90 by the end of the season, but I'm doing great now.
"I've been working out every day and eating healthy,'' Kinder added. "So, I'm in great shape. The best since before the injury, there's no question about that. Maybe it's even the best I've ever felt.''
The nearly 6-foot-1 and 205-pound Kinder trained at Velocity Sports Performance in San Diego, Calif. and ran routes for former Rice quarterback Chase Clement and Louisville's Hunter Cantwell.
"They have some real strong arms, and working out with them was a great experience the past two months,'' Kinder said. "I trained really hard, but now I want to get back into football shape, running routes and things like that. I ran real well for the scouts. The fastest time I heard was a 4.46.
"It's amazing what you can do without a brace. All my times were right around there now, and I think I was around that time before the injury. So, it's been a year and a half since then, and this is the best that I've run in a long time. I probably played at 80-90 percent last year, and I had a decent season.''
Someone in Kinder's situation might be bitter that things played out the way they did for him. He had a breakout season in 2006 with 57 catches for 847 yards and six touchdowns and appeared ready for more accomplishments the following year. But Kinder isn't that type of person. He has no regrets about his time at Pitt.
"Overall, it's been a great experience for me at Pitt,'' Kinder said. "I wouldn't change anything, except the injury, but even that made me a stronger person. And I've worked very hard to get back into real good shape.
"Sure, the scouts didn't rate me very high initially because of it, but all I want is a chance. I believe I can play at the next level. I just want to show a team what I can do, so I hope to get into a camp somewhere and do that.''
The annual NFL Draft is Saturday and Sunday. Kinder's fate likely will be determined late the second day or Monday when free agents are signed.
Kinder Just Wants A Chance
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