The Arizona Cardinals selected two players from LSU in the 2013 draft, with one being taken in the second round and the other in the third.
Both are expected to contribute as rookies yet, as circumstance would have, it’s the third rounder, Tyrann Mathieu, who has garnered the bulk of the attention due to his talent and checkered past.
Somewhat forgotten is Kevin Minter, a player who just so happened to lead the Tigers with 130 tackles last season and was one of three finalists for the Butkus Award, which is given annually to the nation’s best linebacker.
In the middle of his first summer as a professional, Minter says things are going pretty well.
“I’m getting adjusted to these guys, it’s been fun,” he said after practice Thursday, adding it’s interesting playing with established NFL stars like Larry Fitzgerald and Darnell Dockett.
The biggest adjustment, he said, has to do with the atmosphere. Though LSU is one of the premier programs in the country, transitioning to the NFL will always require some acclimation, regardless of background or pedigree.
“You can tell it’s definitely more of a business here,” he said. “Everybody comes to work with it on their mind. I’ve got to make this money, I’ve got to do this stuff for my family and stuff like that.
“You can tell people have different motivations, and people who are coming out here can really play, and I had to step my game up and I feel like I’m adjusting well.”
The tricky part in judging the rookie, according to head coach Bruce Arians, is that Minter’s style isn’t conducive to OTAs and minicamps.
“He’s a thumper and he thumped way too many guys [Wednesday] so I had to throw him out of the drill,” he said. “We don’t tackle in this time of year.
“But I love his intensity and everything that he had on tape from college, athletically, he’s shown.”
Arians said he expects Minter to have little trouble translating his tackling ability to the pro game, but as of now the player’s exact role is somewhat up in the air. A middle linebacker, he could find his way onto the field early in the season while Pro Bowler Daryl Washington serves his four-game suspension. Or, the rookie could be used as depth behind veterans Lorenzo Alexander, Karlos Dansby and Jasper Brinkley.
No matter what, though, he figures to play a lot this season. And unlike some rookies, he says learning the playbook has not been much of a challenge.
“It’s just, with anything, you’ve just got to learn the terminology, how they say certain things,” he said.
Sounds simple, right?
That’s not to say Minter is a finished product, of course. When training camp begins in less than two months, the “thumper” will really have a chance to show the skill that prompted the Cardinals to use the 45th overall selection on him.
Minter’s plan is to be ready.
“There’s a lot of work to be done this summer to get ready for this training camp, and it will all be fine,” he said.