It wasn’t that long ago, really, that former Park Hill star Ondre Pipkins was a highly-coveted five-star defensive tackle headed to play football at the University of Michigan before, he hoped, a chance to play in the NFL.
The last five years, however, have been a whirlwind for Pipkins, one filled with injuries, a disagreement over his health with a new coaching staff and a transfer to Texas Tech.
But now, here he is, on the NFL’s doorstep, like he always planned, only to have people still asking what happened during his time with the Wolverines.
“I believe that’s the question everyone’s asked — ‘Hey, what happened at Michigan?’ ” Pipkins said. “I just say I transferred and it didn’t work out.”
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Pipkins, in essence, left Michigan over a disagreement with the new coaching staff about his health. In the summer of 2015, shortly after Jim Harbaugh replaced the man that recruited him, Brady Hoke, Pipkins told ESPN.com that he was asked about 10 times in two months to sign papers that would have allowed him to keep his scholarship but made him give up football.
Pipkins — who tore his ACL in 2013 and had suffered two concussions to that point — did not want to sign the papers because he wanted to continue his playing career. The stalemate resulted in Pipkins transferring to Texas Tech, where he played the entire 2016 season and recorded 32 tackles in 11 games, all 11 starts.
“It was a great experience, a place for me to grow and play football again and be happy,” Pipkins said. “Mostly, that’s what I grasped from it.”
Pipkins, for his part, has no hard feelings about his time at Michigan, where he recorded 23 tackles in 24 games from 2012 to 2014.
“I’m in a good place right now with University of Michigan and Coach Harbaugh,” Pipkins said. “They still accept me as family, just like Texas Tech does. It all worked out for the best.”
Indeed. At Texas Tech, Pipkins got a chance to show his stuff in a way he hasn’t in the past. He says teams have shown him some interest since his pro day, where he checked in at 6 foot 3 and 307 pounds and, in his opinion, fared well in the drills and tests.
“Pro day went well — from an individual stand point, I did a good job,” Pipkins said. “I’ve talked to some teams, but they don’t want their names out there. They send you a whole disclaimer in the email and everything.”
However, Pipkins — who also participated in the Chiefs’ local pro day on April 7 — did reveal that he’s received positive feedback from scouts.
“They like the way I move,” Pipkins said. “They like my versatility and my size. I’m 310 pounds but my body fat is 19 or below, and they were kind of blown away by my physique – they thought I’d have a big gut, but I’m pretty lean.”
Pipkins hopes to be a mid- to late-round draft pick, but he’s also willing to make a team as an undrafted free agent.
In many ways, after all he’s been through the past five years, he’s just happy to still have an opportunity to chase his dream.
“This has been my dream since I was a kid, and I’m right here, at the doorstep of it,” Pipkins said. “I’m not going to shy away or knock my talent. I know I can play in the NFL. My mind is already set. This is what I want to do in life.”
ONDRE PIPKINS’ DRAFT PROFILE
Measurables: 6-3, 307, 23 years old
2016 stats: 11 games (11 starts), 32 tackles (four for loss), zero sacks, zero hurries, one pass breakup, 1 fumble recovery
Pro Day numbers: 5.16 40-yard dash, 22 bench press reps, 27 1/2 inch vertical jump, 99 inch broad jump, 5.03 20-yard shuttle, 8.17 three-cone drill
2017 NFL Draft
Round 1: 7 p.m. Thursday, April 27
Rounds 2-3: 6 p.m. Friday, April 28
Rounds 4-7: 11 a.m. Saturday, April 29
2017 NFL DRAFT PREVIEW: INTERIOR DEFENSIVE LINE
Chiefs’ need at this position: High. The Chiefs have a strong five-man rotation set with Allen Bailey, Chris Jones, Jaye Howard, Bennie Logan and Rakeem Nunez-Roches. But the Chiefs like to plan a year ahead, and Logan and Howard are scheduled to be free agents in 2018, while Bailey – who is, like Howard, coming off a season-ending injury – will be a free agent in 2019. You can never have enough big fellas who can get after the quarterback, and the Chiefs would be wise to again invest at least one of their 10 draft picks on an interior pass rusher they can develop.
OL: Story | rankings, to come
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Terez A. Paylor, firstname.lastname@example.org