Former Missouri linebacker Kentrell Brothers is used to living on a budget, but he isn’t dreaming of NFL riches this week when his head hits the pillow.
The allure ahead of the NFL draft for Brothers, who led the Football Bowl Subdivision with 152 tackles last season and averaged 0.58 more tackles per game than any other FBS player, is playing football at the highest level.
“For a lot of people, it’s about the money, but I’ve gone through Mizzou surviving off a $1,000 scholarship check, so money’s not my main priority,” Brothers said. “My main priority is getting to play a sport that I love to play. Any team that takes a chance on me, they’ll be getting one hell of a player, that’s for sure.”
Brothers, who returned to his native Oklahoma to be with his family for the draft, recorded at least 10 tackles in 11 of the Tigers’ 12 games last season and ranks ninth in program history with 357 career tackles.
He was poked and prodded at the Senior Bowl, again at the NFL combine and once more at Mizzou’s Pro Day.
Now, he waits.
“In the beginning, it was overwhelming, but it’s been a lot better for me after the combine,” Brothers said. “It’s been a lot less stressful, and I’m a lot more calm. Whatever happens is going to happen. My part’s been done. It’s just a waiting game at this point, so there’s not really much I can do.”
College Football Focus rates Brothers as the 108th best prospect in the draft, which begins with the first round Thursday in Chicago.
CBS Sports pegs Brothers as the No. 2 inside linebacker, and NFL Draft Scout’s Dane Brugler mocked him as the Packers’ second-round pick.
Brothers doesn’t care or want to know about any of that. He’s even directed his agent, Andy Ross of Houston-based Select Sports Group, not to tell him about any draft projections.
“I’d rather it be somewhat of a surprise than me expecting to go somewhere and it not happening and me getting my feelings hurt,” Brothers said. “I stay far, far away from those draft projections.”
Now that the draft drags out across three days, the wait for players to hear their name called can seem interminable, but Brothers has a plan even if he has to wait until Saturday — rounds four through seven are on the final day — before he’s selected.
“Every guy’s dream is to go on those first couple days, but, if I don’t, by no means will I be upset or disappointed,” Brothers said. “That kind of situation reminds me of when I was left off the Butkus Award (finalist list) or the preseason All-SEC team and stuff like that. It’s more of a motivation kind of thing.”
Brothers, whose 357 career tackles rank sixth in the Southeastern Conference since 2005, believes he can be a three-down linebacker in the NFL. He was a force against the run and “wasn’t horrible against the pass,” he said.
Scouts have said his coverage skills need work, which Brothers doesn’t deny, but he’s committed to improving in all areas and becoming a well-rounded pro player.
“I want to be a three-down linebacker,” Brothers said. “If a team brings me in to be a two-down linebacker, that’s fine, too. As long as I get to use my abilities to do something to help the team, I’m happy.”
Brothers, whose three blocked kicks/punts were tied for the second-most in the FBS last season, also knows he can immediately contribute on special teams.
“If that’s my role in the NFL, that’s something I’ll do to the best of my ability,” Brothers said. “Everybody wants to be a starter, but you’ve got to start somewhere. Just like here, when I got to Mizzou, I was special teams All-American as a freshman. Not literally, but I wouldn’t mind doing it again.”