Eagles' Kendricks has tough critic in his father
Mychal Kendricks knew he'd done well when his father called and conceded that he was now a better football player than the elder Kendricks ever was.
"He was like, 'Son, I was a good football player, but you've gotten way better than me,' " Kendricks said last week after the Eagles' 33-27 win over the Redskins in which he recorded a team-high 10 tackles. "And I was like, 'Uh, uh, OK.' "
It was one tackle that convinced the ever-demanding Marvin Kendricks.
The Redskins had set up a screen to Alfred Morris and the running back had three offensive linemen chugging downfield in front. Two of the blockers went right at Kendricks, but the elusive linebacker shed both, stood his ground, and made the stop.
"That showed me that Mychal was there," Marvin Kendricks said by telephone from Fresno, Calif.
"He was like, 'Son, do you realize you had three linemen coming at you? That's more than a full ton,'" Mychal Kendricks said. "He was like, 'You bobbed and weaved through them and you made the play. Good job.' "
Compliments are sometimes hard to come by in the Kendricks family, Marvin admitted. He was a star running back at UCLA in the early 1970s and played professionally before being invited to Eagles training camp several years later.
Four sons have played collegiately - the youngest, Eric, is currently at Marvin's alma mater - but Mychal was the first to bypass him and make it into the NFL. But that hasn't stopped Marvin Kendricks from occasionally giving fatherly - ahem - advice.
"He gets mad at me sometimes, but I don't give a damn, I'm the father," Marvin Kendricks said. "I played the game. I know the game. And he's got an older brother that coached him and his brother in high school. They know what we expect. Football ain't no joke."
'Foundation's been laid'
Chad, the eldest Kendricks son, played at Sacramento State and was a position coach at Fresno's Hoover High, which Mychal and Eric attended. Terrance, the second son, played at Frenso State. Mychal went to California. Eric is a junior linebacker at UCLA and is on the Bednarik watch list as a candidate for college football's defensive player of the year.
And Marvin Kendricks, a retired community college counselor, watched and counseled them every step of the way.
"When they were playing high school ball I had a $1,000 pair of binoculars and I watched everything they did, even on the sideline when they come off the field and talk to the coach," Kendricks said. "I critiqued everything, and if I saw something I didn't like I would pass it along.
"Mychal was hurt one year and that year he learned more than ever because I made him go to practice every day. And he got used to it. He understands now what it takes to make it. The foundation's been laid."
Sometimes the criticism was of their on-field performance; sometimes the elder Kendricks focused on the mental aspect of the game. Perhaps more than anything, he said, he harped on the toughness required to play football.
"I used to accuse the boy at UCLA of playing girlie football and make him so mad. Now look at him, he's one of the top players in football," Kendricks said. "I'd say, 'Quit playing girlie football.' . . . He used to wear every pad known to man. I'd have to make fun of him. I was so mean."
Kendricks laughed. He said he's now mostly the doting father. He plans to travel to Philadelphia and Green Bay to watch Mychal play and will drive up to hostile O.co Coliseum in Oakland when the Eagles visit the Raiders in November.
"I'm thinking about getting a shirt made," he said. "It would say, 'Look, don't be a hater, my son plays for the Eagles.' "
After bouncing around the Canadian and World Football Leagues, Kendricks ended up at Eagles camp in 1976. A rookie coach by the name of Dick Vermeil remembered Kendricks from his one-year stint as a UCLA assistant in 1970 - he would become the Bruins head coach in 1974 - and invited him to Widener.
"He'd use me as an example - 'Kendricks, come up here and make this block, and do this and do that,' " Kendricks said of Vermeil. "But I still didn't make the team and I was kind of glad I didn't."
Kendricks said he had gotten into a graduate program to study public administration and figured he had greater earning potential out of the NFL when bottom-roster players made very little.
The Eagles remained his favorite team, though, and when Mychal was drafted in the second round last year, Kendricks' elation exceeded perhaps even his son's.
'To the mountaintop'
Mychal had a promising rookie season, but the 4-3 scheme and playing strong-side linebacker didn't suit his skills. He didn't hit his stride until late in the year, when the Eagles moved him to weak-side. He admitted he was frustrated.
"There was a time that I was real upset, just because I knew I had the capability," Kendricks said. "Sometimes you question yourself when things aren't going the way they need to."
But when the Eagles brought in a new regime with coach Chip Kelly and defensive coordinator Bill Davis and Kendricks was told they were moving to a 3-4 scheme, like the one he played in college, he said, he knew it would open up his game.
Kendricks is no longer required to line up opposite the tight end as he did when he played strong-side. And he doesn't have to fight through as many linemen as he did playing behind a wide-nine defensive front.
He's playing more in space and utilizing his speed. Kendricks could be lining up over the "A" gap - on either side of the center - ready to pass-rush, or he could drop into coverage, sometimes even as a quasi-safety.
The 22-year old was all over the field Monday night in Washington. ESPN analyst Jon Gruden sang his praises. But it was just one game. Kendricks knows there's room for improvement.
"I want to be real good. But I'm not going to jinx anything," Kendricks said. "It's going to take a lot of hard work and you're only going to get out what you put in."
And in case he forgets that, his father is always a phone call or text message away from reminding him.
"Consistency is what I want now - fewer mistakes and more aggression," Marvin Kendricks said. "I want him to be the best that he can be. You only get one chance at this whole thing. You might as well make an impact and let them know you were there.
"I went to the mountain, but Mychal is going to the mountaintop."
Contact Jeff McLane at email@example.com.