Robert Nkemdiche is just days away from donning an Arizona Cardinals uniform and taking the practice field with his new team.
The Cardinals made Nkemdiche the 29th overall selection in the 2016 NFL Draft last Thursday and as an organization are thrilled the talented, yet enigmatic defensive tackle from Ole Miss was available to them near the end of the first round.
Terry McDonough, the team’s vice president of player personnel, is very involved in the draft process, and says the attraction to Nkemdiche was immediate.
“We put more time into him than anyone else, McDonough told Doug and Wolf Tuesday on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM. “It almost snowballed from the first time we met him.
“When you meet the guy, you’re kind of taken aback by his character and his charisma and his intelligence.”
Of course, one of the reasons Nkemdiche was available so late in the first round was a bizarre incident last December when he fell out of a hotel window in Atlanta. He wasn’t hurt, but was charged with marijuana possession and was suspended for the Sugar Bowl.
The time the Cardinals spent with Nkemdiche prior to the draft was enough to convince them that the Atlanta hotel incident was inconsistent with the young man’s character.
“Brentson Buckner, our defensive line coach, has really strong feelings about Robert,” McDonough said. “So when he was there, it was a pretty easy pick for us.”
Nkemdiche was recruited to Ole Miss out of Loganville, Georgia and was the nation’s top overall recruit in the class of 2013 by Rivals.com.
Despite the Cardinals’ excitement in landing Nkemdiche, he won’t be counted on to be “the man” immediately.
“He’s always been ‘the guy,'” McDonough said. “Here, he’s not going to be ‘the guy.’ Larry Fitzgerald, Carson Palmer, Patrick Peterson, Tyrann Mathieu, Calais Campbell — they’re ‘the guys.’ So he’s not coming in here as the alpha dog.
“All those guys will take him under their wing and fit him into this culture that’s been created by Michael (Bidwill), Steve (Keim) and Bruce (Arians). We feel like we have the support system on the field and off the field. With all the great people we have here, if you’re going to take a ‘chance’ on a guy — I mean you take chances on everybody — this is the kind of guy and the talent that you do it on.”
Nkemdiche, along with Arizona’s other five draft picks and 16 undrafted free agents, begins rookie minicamp Friday at the team’s training facility in Tempe.