2 Fast, 2 Furious
This article appears in the September 2005 edition of SchoolSports magazine.
When talk turns to his father, Sergio Kindle struggles to put his pop's contributions to his football career — and his life in general — into words.
Kindle, an imposing 6-foot-3, 220-pound senior linebacker/running back at Woodrow Wilson, says he wouldn't be the player he is today if it weren't for his dad, Johnny Walker. In fact, Kindle says he probably wouldn't be playing at all.
That's an admission that stops you in your tracks, for sure. But when Kindle explains what he means, merely surprising turns into something out of a Hollywood screenplay.
"My dad kept me off the street and out of trouble," says Kindle, who is rated the No. 1 football recruit in Texas and No. 6 in the nation by SchoolSports.com. "He, you know, keeps his foot on me."
"I used to hang out with these two boys from the neighborhood — one was two years older than me and the other was four years older," recalls Kindle, who will turn 18 on Sept. 20. "They had more talent than me, and they'd probably be better than me if they were still playing. They came to pick me up to go out one night and my pops said no. Well, I was all mad and everything. But they went out that night and did something illegal and ended up in jail. And I probably would have been there with them if it wasn't for my pops."
It's chilling, indeed, to think how close we came to being deprived of Kindle's immense football talent.
Kindle and his dad still share a bond tighter than Super Glue. They eat dinner together and talk football almost every night. They share the cooking duties, switching off. Sergio specializes in pork chops and steaks but insists he's got versatility.
"I can fry, bake, sauté and grill," he says.
Those dinners are filled with talk of Kindle's football future. It seems he's always thinking ahead. Always anticipating what will be required of him. And despite being blessed with an overabundance of humility, he even thinks ahead to his potential as a pro football player. Predictably, even that daydream involves a stay-humble theme.
"You know the first thing I think about when I think about playing pro someday?" says Kindle, who has rushed for 3,352 yards and 44 touchdowns and made 257 tackles during the past two seasons. "I think about being a rookie and getting picked on by the veterans. I think about the fact that when you're a rookie, your first mistake could be your last."
The easiest way to get a sense for what Kindle is thinking about is to listen to his rap. He's written and freestyled lyrics since the eighth grade. But Kindle doesn't preach when he raps. His stuff is pretty goal oriented.
"I don't sing about struggles and stuff like that," says Kindle, who hasn't interacted with his mother in 14 years but has her maiden name due to birth-certificate rules in his birth state of California. "I rap about what's on my mind. I rap about something I don't have, like money or cars."
Kindle might rap about self-interest, but once he takes the football field, he's about as selfless as a guy expected to be The Man on every snap can be. Take, for example, his trajectory toward becoming one of the hottest recruits in the country and giving a verbal commitment to the University of Texas this past spring.
In his freshman season of 2002, Kindle revved his linebacker motor all over the field on defense, blocked five punts and two field goals as a special teams standout and started the last three games of the season at running back. His all-around play helped lead the Wildcats to a 5-6 record and their first postseason appearance in 12 years.
As a sophomore, Kindle rushed for 1,509 yards (7.9 yards per carry) and 19 touchdowns and tallied 125 tackles as a two-way starter, leading Wilson to the District 9-4A title and the first back-to-back postseason berths in the 75-year history of the program. Last year, his 1,843 rushing yards (8.6 yards per carry), 25 TDs and 132 tackles helped the Wildcats secure a third straight trip to the playoffs.
Considering those digits, it's no surprise that a who's who of elite college programs were scrambling to scoop him up before the Longhorns got the call. But even with all the pressure to make the right decision, Kindle, whose cousin, Kendrick Lee, is a senior wideout for the Wildcats, still put his teammates at the top of his priority list.
"One of his first questions about committing early involved concern for his teammates," says Wilson seventh-year coach Bobby Estes, 39. "He said, ‘I want to make sure that if I commit, guys like (senior offensive lineman) LaMarcus Jefferson, (senior fullback) Larry Phillips and (senior linebacker and Lincoln transfer) Terrance Johnson will still get a good look.' He wanted to make sure that if he was off the table, recruiters would still come down. We assured him that would be the case."
Some college programs will likely even show up still hoping against hope that they can change Kindle's mind. Especially after witnessing last fall's stunning upset of previously unbeaten Hebron in the Class 4A playoffs.
Kindle — who was averaging 137 rushing yards per game coming into the matchup — went for 195 yards and three scores in the win. In a loss to Wylie the following week, he rolled for 254 yards and three more TDs.
And yet he's considered a better prospect at linebacker.
"I've coached tall guys, I've coached strong guys and I've coached fast guys," says Estes. "But athletically speaking, I've never coached a guy with this combination of the three. At 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds with a 315-pound bench press and 4.5 speed in the 40, well, with that ability inside his body type, that's what sets him apart."
What the recruiters still dreaming about signing Kindle don't understand is that his commitment to Texas is more a blood oath than a stated intent.
Last spring, Wilson JV offensive lineman Will Winters underwent surgery to repair a congenital bone defect in his feet to improve his mobility and start him on the long road to fulfilling his dream of playing for the Longhorns. But Winters, one of the most likeable kids in the Wilson program, died in April due to complications following his surgery.
Already leaning toward Texas, Kindle made up his mind after the funeral. In fact, he plans to graduate from Wilson mid-year and enroll at Texas in time to participate in the Longhorns' 2006 spring practices.
"Going to my partner's funeral put me over the hump," says Kindle, whose brother, All-District junior defensive tackle Calvin Kindle, dressed out of the locker next to Winters.
Thinking ahead with a nod to the past. That sounds just like Sergio Kindle.