By: Kayla Mortellaro
April 29, 2016
TEMPE, Ariz. — The Arizona Cardinals introduced first round draft pick, 29th overall, Robert Nkemdiche Friday afternoon.
Nkemdiche, 6-foot-four, 294 pounds is excited about the opportunity to prove himself as an elite defensive lineman, and to shake the off-the-field stigma that has surrounded him over the past year.
“That’s what my mindset’s been for a very long time,” Nkemdiche said about getting settled in with the Cardinals to play football. “This whole process, I was just thinking about getting back to football and getting back to the grind. That’s all I can think about, is football, football, football.”
The defensive tackle, whom Keim and Arians have both praised for the versatility that he brings to the defensive line, feels confident that he can step in and make an impact.
“I’m more than ready,” he said. “I feel like the people around me, Coach Buck [Brentson Buckner], Steve [Keim], Coach Arians, everybody around me is going to put me in a position to be successful, and it’s all up to me. I’m going to put in the work. I’m going to do everything to the max, and I’m going to be a great player, and I can’t wait to show that over time.”
For a player who has in the past at Ole Miss claimed his production declined due to facing more double-teams, he appears to be saying all the right things at the start of his career with the Cardinals. And for Arians and Keim to take a chance on Nkemdiche, he had to have shown maturity in the four-plus meetings with the team, and proven that he is “a good person off the field,” as he said Friday afternoon.
Nkemdiche talked about the misconceptions that followed his drug charge for possession of marijuana and subsequent suspension from the 2016 Sugar Bowl, by saying, ” I hate that that perception was even created, because that’s not who I am. I made a mistake and I’m moving forward from it and I’m looking forward to it, and I can’t wait to get on the field and do successful things.”
Arians, Keim and the Cardinals organization have proven that they do due-diligence when it comes to making selections. They take the time to get to know the player and find out their story. The coaching staff and organization in Tempe provides an environment for players to feel comfortable and succeed.
And Nkemdiche knows that he has landed in a very healthy position.
“From the first time I came here, everything felt comfortable,” he said. “Everybody made me feel welcomed and they accepted me for who I am. It just felt like the right place to be.”
Along with the organization’s philosophy, Arians credits his players for creating a culture that speaks for itself. Whether the leadership is coming from young players or veterans and their method of choice is by example or vocal, everyone is doing their part to make the Arizona Cardinals successful.
In the end, Nkemdiche will be provided with every avenue and opportunity to succeed on the football field. It is all up to him. And he knows that.