The wait was longer than expected for a player with as much production as Missouri linebacker Kentrell Brothers, but he finally saw his name flash on the screen and got a life-changing call Saturday from an NFL team.
The Minnesota Vikings selected Brothers in the fifth round with the No. 160 overall pick, making him the third Tigers player picked on the third day of the 2016 NFL Draft.
“First off, I just want to thank (head) coach (Mike) Zimmer and the Vikings for drafting me,” Brothers said on a conference call with reporters in Minnesota. “This has been a dream of mine since I was a kid, and now I’m getting the opportunity to play for a great organization with a great defense.”
ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr. called Brothers one of the best picks of the fifth round.
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Brothers led the nation with 152 tackles last season, leading to a slew of postseason honors. His 374 tackles during the last two seasons also rank first in the Football Bowl Subdivision.
“He covered up a lot of things last year,” said Mizzou football coach Barry Odom, who served as the Tigers’ defensive coordinator last season. “When I made a bad call, he’d make it right. He’s a very smart player in knowing where he had help and where he didn’t within the structure of the defense. Those will be his redeeming qualities and he’ll go make it.”
He was an All-SEC first-team selection at linebacker and earned first-team All-America honors from CBS Sports and Sports Illustrated.
Brothers — a native of Guthrie, Okla., who converted from defensive end early in his career with the Tigers — earned All-America second-team honors from the Associated Press, Football Writers Association of America, The Sporting News and the Walter Camp Football Foundation.
Brothers’ senior-year tackle total is the fourth-most in Mizzou history and he finished with 26 more tackles than any other player in the SEC last season.
Pro Football Focus dubbed Brothers as the nation’s “Most dominant tackler” after his superb senior season.
Scouts lauded Brothers’ impeccable instincts, which allow him to be around the ball most plays.
“I think he’s going to have a long career in the NFL,” Missouri coach Barry Odom said. “If you look at what he’s done over just the last two years, he’s been one of the most productive players in college football on the defensive side. His instincts will probably help him.”
His size — 6-feet, 245 pounds — and questions about his overall athleticism, rooted in a relatively slow 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine, led some scouts to question if he can be a three-down player in the pro ranks.
“People say that (he may a two-down linebacker), and maybe so,” Vikings director of college scouting Jamaal Stephenson said, “but we think he gives us value because of his special teams as well and I think he will be a core teamer here.”
Brothers, who blocked two kicks and a punt last season, is convinced he’s a three-down player in addition to bringing special teams value. Now, he’s eager for the chance to prove it with the up-and-coming Vikings.
“He does have a little bit of a chip on his shoulder, because he hears the same things you just talked about,” Odom said. “He has the desire and the competitive spirit to go make it. … It will need to be the right system and the right structure for him, but I’ve never seen a player use their hands as well technically and fundamentally as he did.”
Brothers’ value as a run-stopper and his relentless preparation, including a never-ending stream of film he watched on his iPad, should make him an effective NFL player.
Nonetheless, the first time he meets former Oklahoma running back Adrian Peterson in the hole during practice will seem surreal.
“I mean, a superstar like Adrian Peterson, it’s just crazy growing up watching him and now I’m getting to be his teammate,” Brothers said. “I’m sure he’s a hard worker as well as the rest of the team is, I’m happy to pick up and get some advice from him.”