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Eric Kendricks on Aaron Rodgers, NFL goals and Donut Club

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NFL Media's Oklahoma Drill series presents exclusive, quick-hitting one-on-one interviews with players and coaches from around the league. No nonsense -- just football experiences directly from the source.

Eric Kendricks

Middle linebacker, Minnesota Vikings

Born: Feb. 29, 1992

Experience: One NFL season

Interview by Brooke Cersosimo | April 12, 2016

When I first got the call, I first thought, What? Vikings? When do they pick? Then my second thought was, Oh! I'm playing with Anthony. I was confused because the TV said two different teams on the board. Then one of the teams made a pick and the next team was the Vikings. Then I thought, This is really gonna happen now. I'm going to go play with one of my best friends from college.

It's been awesome [playing with Anthony Barr]. So awesome.

That I belong in the NFL and that I can compete with anybody. Definitely, it was a confidence year, and I had a lot of fun.

Quarterback is the hardest position on the field, and I feel like [Teddy Bridgewater] is doing a great job. It was his second year this year, and I wouldn't have been able to tell coming in as a rookie. I can't ask much more, just doing what he's doing because you know he's going to keep improving every year. You know people are always going to criticize him, especially as a quarterback.

It's very much like a chess game. [Aaron Rodgers] is a very smart quarterback and obviously a very skilled quarterback. There's only so much you can do against him, because he's going to make his plays, but you gotta be sharp as well.

I wanna be the leading tackler in the NFL, let alone on the Vikings. That's always my goal at the beginning of the year, but during the season, I don't really pay attention to that stuff. I kinda let the chips fall. But that's definitely my goal.

My first sack was against Peyton Manning. He didn't really let me sack him. He kinda fell before and I went over top of him, but it was still crazy. I'm a big celebrator, but I didn't really know how to celebrate, because I go off my emotions. That was a pretty cool moment for me. I can't lie.

I feel like I try to practice [a sack celebration], but it never works out. You just go with the flow of the game.

Eddie Lacy [is the hardest player to tackle]. He's just a big bruiser. He keeps those feet moving and [the Packers] have a good offensive line. Anytime you have those two combined, it's tough.

If I have 10 tackles in a game, I change the outcome of the game maybe a little bit. Maybe not the outcome of the game, but making an impact is my main goal when I'm out there. I wanna make an impact.

I'm in a class of my own. I'm an underdog. People are always going to criticize my height, my weight, whatever they wanna say about me. But I guarantee I'm gonna put the work in and my mental attitude is stronger than most.

I expect a lot out of myself. As far as that goes, I'm No. 1 as far as linebackers.

I've learned to have fun with the game. Obviously, I've always had fun with the game, but now that I see [Vikings veteran Chad Greenway] and how his career's been and how much success he's had and how everyone looks up to him, I realize that at the end of the day, he's having a great time when he's in the facilities. He's working hard, has a smile on his face and he truly loves this game. I realize that's what it takes, that love for the game, that passion and just to have fun every day. Just enjoy what you do.

I am a member of Donut Club. It took me a while to be a member, though. I was a little bit shy at first, but it's a great club.

I like sprinkles. Vanilla sprinkles.

[Mike Zimmer is] a very consistent coach and you know what to expect. I can't ask any more out of a head coach. He's taught me a lot this first year, and he's expected a lot of me, which is all I can ask for, to put that trust in me. I'm going to keep working hard and see what we can do this year.

[Mike and his son, linebackers coach Adam Zimmer,] have different personalities, but their love for the game is there. They definitely have the same football knowledge. It's cool. Our linebacker room is real light and we get a lot of work done.

I have way too many [pregame rituals] to even list. Ah, man ... so when I go out and come back in, I have to comb my hair and take a shower, because I get my body right. I kinda get my thoughts. It's just weird. I have to shower before every game at some point in the locker room. But a lot of people do it, too, though.

I don't think [my brother, Eagles linebacker Mychal Kendricks,] would argue with me, but I'm gonna give myself the benefit of the doubt and say that I'm the better player. I've learned so much from him going before me. He's a trailblazer and I see what he's doing before I do it. It makes it that much easier for me in a sense. So that's why.

I've definitely seen [U.S. Bank Stadium] but haven't been inside of it yet. I plan on going very soon. It's a wonderful stadium and it's beautiful from the outside. I can't wait to be inside.

[Adrian Peterson] is kind of a soft-spoken guy, a hard worker. Me growing up, he was the man. And he still is the man, so it's pretty crazy and cool that I get to play with him.

The heart of our defense? I would definitely say Linval Joseph. He's right in front of me and he's our anchor. He works hard and he's not real outgoing, kinda quiet. But what he does on the field speaks a lot of volume with teammates.

Further than last season. We obviously ended on a heartbreak loss, but I think we just got started. We have a good group of guys that have bought in and are dedicated.

You just keep [the playoff loss] in the back of your mind while you're working. That's the first thing. You come to work, you have a purpose and keep that in mind, especially how we lost last year. You wanna do better.

Just stick to what we did last year -- be consistent, work hard and listen to our coach. We have a formula up there and I'm very confident in that. I think we just need to do what we did.

There's a lot of moving parts, and you gotta be focused and do your homework in order to be successful.

I dealt with injuries one of the seasons I was in college. ... It's just about taking care of your body day in and day out. Routines that are good habits, you know eating well, taking the right vitamins and things like that. If you take care of your body, it will heal faster. You learn to play with a little bit of pain for sure.

I've had so much family call and ask me if I'm playing the Rams this year. It's exciting to bring football to L.A. We have two college teams. Obviously, the team in the blue being better than the other team. The Rams are going to be an exciting addition.

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