Nick Kindler of Camp Hill, Pa., made his second trip to WVU to take in a football scrimmage and check out the Mountaineer program, and noted that West Virginia was in his top two at the present time. The big tackle (6-6, 275 lbs.) also had to impress the coaching staff, due in no small part to the personal courage and toughness he displayed on the field as a junior. For Kindler, who earned first team all-conference and all-state honors as a junior, did so while playing on a torn ACL.
"I hurt it in preseason, and I would have had to miss the whole season if I had surgery," Kindler said. "My doctor gave me the option to play, so I had a big brace made up. I ended up making it through the season, but the hardest thing was getting used to the brace. I got rolled up on a couple of times, but my knee was really protected in that brace. My knee did hurt at times, but I was able to get through it. When we would run, it would bother me the first half mile or so, but after that it loosened up and I was able to finish."
Kindler says all this matter-of-factly, as if anyone can play with a torn ligament – especially in the mosh pit of the offensive line. The ability to not only play, but also excel, while hampered by such an injury is an outstanding feat, but Kindler consistently downplays it. He also won't use it as an excuse, which is why his spring and summer visits won't include any camp or combine workouts.
"I'm rehabbing my knee now, and I might not be cleared by the time camps and combines take place this summer," he explained. "I don't want to do something where I might just be 80%, and I don't want to make any excuses for not being able to play my best. I could tell people at a camp that I'm still rehabbing, but I don't want to do that. I want people to be able to see me when I am able to play my best."
Kindler, who holds offers from West Virginia, Illinois and Maryland, is savvy about the recruiting game, and knows that many coaches will want to see him play after the surgery before making offers. He has visited Connecticut, Rutgers, Pittsburgh and Illinois this spring, and will close out his tour with visits to Penn State and Boston College. He will likely receive additional offers from one or more of those schools, and plans to "keep things open for now", since other offers could be forthcoming.
However, there's no doubt that West Virginia is one of his early leaders.
"This is the second time I was there, and I like it a lot," he said. "From the first time I got there, Coach Kirelawich and Coach Stewart were awesome. They and Coach Johnson seemed like very nice guys. I got to talk to some of the players a little bit after the scrimmage, and they were giving me insight about the coaches. They had nothing but good things to say about them. The players were telling me about Coach Johnson. They said he doesn't swear at them, which they like, but that the intensity is still there. If you make a mistake you will hear about it. I like that."
In summing up his visit, Kindler sounded as if he had gotten a very good picture of the Mountaineer program.
"I like everything about it and feel real comfortable about West Virginia. I do feel like everybody is genuine down there. I loved the facilities; loved everything about the school. It is similar to my hometown. It's a real tight knit kind of community. It's similar to our school and our town – they are really into sports and into supporting the school."
Pending successful rehabilitation, Kindler figures to be a great candidate for a tackle slot, which West Virginia will need to fill in the upcoming recruiting class.
"I don't know if Coach Johnson sees me as a left tackle or a right tackle, but he said I was an outside player," the well-spoken and polite Kindler said. "I get on my blocks pretty well, and I have good footwork. I can get out on linebackers and block downfield on cornerbacks -- and drive them into the ground," he added with a laugh. "I think I can play tackle in college. I know you have to be real athletic to play left tackle in college, and I know I will have to work on my footwork and technique and everything to play there."
First, doctors to play for his senior season must clear Kindler, but he is on track to do so.
"I could be cleared by June to go full contact, but after sitting down with my doctor and my parents and my trainer, we decided it's not worth it to take that chance for a camp or something like that. I should be 100% ready to go by August, when our high school starts."
Kindler played a handful of games with the varsity as a freshman, when he tipped the scales at 185 pounds. Since then, he gave up other sports to concentrate on strength and speed work, and has gained 90 pounds to put him at a still trim 275 entering his senior season.
"I want to make sure I put on good weight," said Kindler, whose frame certainly looks capable of holding more.