Nkemdiche and Arizona Cardinals a Winning Match


With OTAs starting last week and training camp on the horizon, the Arizona Cardinals are preparing for what could be a championship season. Their top draft pick, Robert Nkemdiche has turned some heads already, and the team is hopeful that he can maintain this level of energy throughout the season.

Robert Nkemdiche is a great football player. In high school he was he was a two-time All American and was ranked the number one overall player in his class by ESPN, Rivals.com and Scouts.com. At Ole Miss, Nkemdiche blossomed into an AP All American and a semifinalist for the Lombardi Award. His talent has never been in question and he seemed destined for the NFL. However, talent isn’t the only thing that is evaluated when you are looking to play football at the professional level.

Nkemdiche had to recover from an incident last December where the Ole Miss defensive lineman was found lying on the ground outside his hotel room. Officers got to the scene where they searched his room and found “seven rolled marijuana cigarettes” and broken glass from his window to a ledge where he fell. Nkemdiche was arrested and charged with a misdemeanor drug possession. He was then suspended by the team for the Sugar Bowl and decided to forgo his senior year at OleMiss.

During the combine, Nkemdiche was asked about the incident. He responded by telling reporters he was not high from marijuana, but he was under the influence of alcohol. Reporters then asked him how he’s changed since the incident. “I have changed. I’ve lasered my focus to what’s important and kept away from things that can take football away from me and jeopardize my career because I love the game so much. I never want it to be taken away from me, and I know if I’m in situations like that it can be taken away from me.”

At the time, college football analyst Mel Kiper had Nkemdiche ranked as the number 5 overall prospect for the 2016 draft.

Prior to the draft, Nkemdiche met with another player who had his character questioned and ultimately slipped in the draft as well, Arizona Cardinals’ defensive back, Tyrann Mathieu. Mathieu told Nkemdiche that things happen in life .The media’s going to say what they want to say but everything’s up to you at the end of the day.

During draft, Nkemdiche slipped to the 29th pick and like  Mathieu, he was drafted by the Cardinals. The team’s head coach Bruce Arians is known for taking chances on guys like Tyrann Mathieu, and Nkemdiche was no different. General Manager Steve Keim said, “There are guys in this draft who we didn’t feel comfortable with and that were off our board, (Nkemdiche) wasn’t one of them.”

The Cardinals spent a lot of time with Nkemdiche before the draft to see what he was all about. “When you hear about an incident you have a perception and when he came and spent a significant amount of time with us it changed our perception, said Keim. More than anything, he’s remorseful. That incident happened and he’s paid for it. He paid for it today. Hopefully, we’re the beneficiaries of that.”

Nkemdiche understands the perception people have of him, but is determined to prove everyone wrong. “It was a true accident that happened. It was a blunder and it’s not who I am. Over time, they will see that I’m a great person. I’m a competitor; I’m a hard worker. I’m a persistent person. I’m everything the Cardinals want and I’m everything they need.”

With rookie minicamp this month, the Cardinals are already impressed with Nkemdiche and believe he’s the steal of the draft. Coach Arians even joked that Nkemdiche is going too hard in the workouts saying, “he was killing people in walk through and I had to slow him down. It’s a walkthrough and he’s bench pressing linemen already.”

The Cardinals are very excited about Nkemdiche adding to their new look defense and  they also added former New England Patriots defensive lineman Chandler Jones.

The Cardinals took a chance on Tyrann Mathieu in 2013 and he is now a Pro Bowler and and All Pro player. It’s clear that the Cardinals are willing to give Nkemdiche to chance and be an impact player for their team. He has a lot of work to do, but all signs point in the right direction for Robert Nkemdiche.

Twitter @aspin32

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