(Second in a two-part series - Click here for part 1)
He's been around a lot of great coaches, Kenechi Udeze tells you. It started when he went from a 375-pound high schooler to a USC All-American defensive end and national champ then first-round draft pick and solid starter every NFL game he was in for four seasons until acute lymphoblastic leukemia took away his playing career -- but not his football.
Or his drive to excel. He knows what it takes. And he knows it's tougher today than it was at the end of the 20th Century when he arrived at USC.
"A lot has changed," BKU says as he finishes up his first week as a strength and conditioning assistant to Ivan Lewis.
"Kids don't have a clue what it takes . . . or they're confused."
He thinks he can help them. "I want to break into coaching and having been around great coaches, people who know how to coach," is what it takes.
After four years in Seattle on Steve Sarkisian's UW staff and as a coaching intern with the Seahawks and then another at Pitt last season, BKU knows his primary duties are in the weight room but that doesn't mean he won't be making the connection to football. "That's the best way to get to players -- in the weight room," he says.
And get to them he plans to do. Like that first meeting with the USC D-line guys. "Pull up your pants," he greeted one. "First impressions matter," he told the droopy drawers guy, "and you haven't made a very good one."
The message here is that no one is guaranteed an NFL spot and even then, when a player finishes up, he'll be out and hopefully using his USC degree and not lowering his pants to half-mast. So why do it now? That's BKU's question that really requires no answer other than pulling them up.
But this is about football and about what BKU hopes to bring to these Trojans of today from those Trojans a decade ago. He said he was talking to Keary Colbert (now coaching at Alabama) not long ago and they agreed: "There wasn't one game more intense than any practice . . . we were always competing . . . on every play."
The result was a confidence that helped those Trojan teams make big plays when they had to -- especially when it involved the big men up front. BKU and Shaun Cody.
Kenechi would like to continue the kinds of connection his coach, Ed Orgeron, encouraged. For example, Coach O would call Kenechi when a player came along who he thought was worthy of wearing BKU's No. 94 and see if it was OK with him. The last one: Leonard Williams.
"Coach O called me, told me about Leonard and said he thought he could wear the number." Pretty good call, BKU says. But what he didn't realize and just learned was how that connection came alive. "I just found out that every day when he ran out of the McKay tunnel, Leonard would touch my jersey plaque on the wall."
Now BKU plans to touch the next generation of Trojans, especially the guys up front. He'll ask them what they're watching when they watch NFL games. "Are you watching the 10-year guys?" he wants to know. "Those are the guys who know how to do things right. Watch them. There's a reason they've been around for 10 years."
He's met the guys who are following in his footsteps -- "Antwaun, Delvon, Claude, Kenny . . . they're not hurting for talent," he says. But he adds this. "Kids talk about the next level, how about starting by showing up on time . . . if your life isn't in order, how do you compete for a national championship?"
It's about little things like the way he and offensive tackle Jacob Rogers worked against one another every day. "I'd ask Jacob what he needed from me to get ready each week for the guy he was going against and I'd give him the best look I could."
What BKU calls the "recipe for success" is what he hopes to pass along here. It's about "FBI . . . football intelligence," he says. "Anybody can make a play . . . it's who can make them consistently play after play after play. You only get so many plays a game. You have to make them when they come."
If that sounds intense, well, it is. "They're not going to get Kenechi 2.0, they're getting Kenechi 10.0," he says. And they're getting a good dose of what Pete Carroll talked about Friday in Phoenix.
Asked about his time in New England, Pete said getting fired there was the best thing that happened to him because "it got me to SC." And that what happened at USC is what Pete said he took to the NFL to see if he could replicate it there.
That replication is something Kenechi would like to see at USC. It's as simple as this three-step plan.
"A commitment must be made," he says, "a plan must be laid and a price must be paid."
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