Kirkendoll Waits For Lockout to End

The fact that the NFL went to a lockout didn't surprise former Texas wide receiver James Kirkendoll.

"We all knew there was going to be a lockout," Kirkendoll said. "Some things changed and weren't quite what I expected. But you always have to be prepared for that."

What Kirkendoll didn't expect was having to wait several months after the 2011 NFL Draft to find a team. After all, he expected to be drafted.

"I talked to more than 10 teams, and three or four teams called between the fifth and seventh rounds, saying that they were going to get me," Kirkendoll said. "But I guess it didn't work out for them."

Nor for Kirkendoll. The fact that he wasn't drafted cast him into the NFL's version of limbo, a football purgatory. In most years, players who weren't drafted were able to get past their disappointment by signing free agent deals as soon as minutes after the draft, and typically within the first few days after the draft's weekend.

But the lockout dictated that, after the draft was completed, so was any talk between teams and potential players until the lockout was solved. And so Kirkendoll's NFL dreams hit the pause button, with the receiver forced to wait patiently months until finding his potential home.

"It's definitely been frustrating," Kirkendoll said. "When you're not drafted, you could usually sign quickly, get into team workouts and learn some plays. We (undrafted free agents) will definitely be at a major disadvantage.

"It is what it is," Kirkendoll said. "I'm just going to continue working my butt off."

That work could pay off as early as Monday, with the players expected to ratify a proposal signed by the league's owners, ending the lockout. Free agents would then be able to sign with teams.

"Anytime you go undrafted, especially when you feel like you have the talent to be drafted, all it does is humble you," Kirkendoll said. "All I could do was go and work out everyday and try to get better. That (signing) moment is coming."

A Round Rock native, Kirkendoll stayed around the Austin area and continued to work out with the Texas football team. He spent time perfecting the little parts of his routes, cutting and building up his upper body. Knowing that he would probably have to fight to make a team, Kirkendoll worked on catching punts and kickoffs — anything to make himself more valuable.

"I feel like I never had a chance to showcase that ability here at Texas," Kirkendoll said. "But it's definitely something I could do at the next level."

As a priority free agent, Kirkendoll will likely have his pick of several teams once the lockout officially ends. He said he'll listen to any team that needs receiver help, especially one looking to utilize his talents as a speedster out of the slot.

"If I only have one team that wants me, of course I'll go there," Kirkendoll said. "I just want to go where I fit in."

Kirkendoll said whichever team signed him would be getting "a steal."

"They're getting a playmaking receiver who can work underneath or make plays down the field," Kirkendoll said.

The numbers back him up. Last year, Kirkendoll led the Longhorns in catches and yards after snagging 52 passes for 707 yards. He was also the team's most reliable deep threat, catching a season-long 63-yarder. And he put up all of those numbers despite playing in a passing game that was less than consistent.

Kirkendoll said he thought the Longhorns would be improved this year.

"There's a lot of young talent on the team," Kirkendoll said. "There are a lot more freshmen in, and it seems like everybody's young. But they're talented enough to go to a bowl game. I've been happy to see them get ready for the season."

Kirkendoll said he's tried to help in that effort by providing a strong example in drills.

"Once a Longhorn, always a Longhorn," Kirkendoll said. "I have to set a good example. People are watching me. I'm a pro guy, and I can set an example of what's right on and off the field."

While Kirkendoll has always gone about his game in a professional manner, he could be an actual pro as early as this week.

"I'm just ready to get into camp and get a shot to play somewhere," Kirkendoll said. "There's been a bit of a wait."

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