Sergio Kindle: ‘The sky’s the limit’

On Monday, Sergio Kindle and Lamarr Houston officially announced they were returning for their senior seasons. Kindle had come the closest to putting his name into the draft, but after a sit down with defensive coordinator Will Muschamp, he elected to return. Kindle talked Monday about the reasons behind his decision, what position he’ll play this coming season and Texas’ 2009 run at a national title.

[Also see: Kindle: What Brought Him Back?]

“Me and Sergio talked a lot after the bowl game and we figured it would be best to come back to school, have our senior years and help this team win the Big 12 Championship and be a national championship contender,” said Lamarr Houston on Monday.

Both Kindle and Houston announced they are returning to Texas for the senior seasons and it comes after Kindle had been very close to putting his name in for the NFL Draft. But that was before defensive coordinator Will Muschamp drove to Dallas and met with Kindle and his father, Johnny Walker, to talk about the decision.

When asked how much Muschamp’s presence at Texas weighed into his decision, Kindle was very clear.

“Oh, probably about…a ton,” said Kindle.

Much of it has to do with Muschamp’s experience as a defensive coordinator in the NFL, allowing Muschamp to present ways that he can turn Kindle into a first round pick.

“He laid out some numbers about how much money I could make this year compared to how much money I can make next year,” said Kindle.

Even with that potential leap in salary, it was still a hard decision for Kindle. The soon-to-be senior LB/DE doesn’t come from a wealthy background and immediate financial concerns weighed heavily on him.

“It’s a tough decision and different people see it different ways,” said Muschamp. “Four hundred thousand dollars to some person may not be a lot, but to others it’s a lot.”

The rookie minimum for 2009 is set for $310,000 and with how high Kindle would have been drafted (his official evaluation from the NFL targeted him as a low second round pick), he would have been making a lot more than that. But in the end Kindle decided that it was worth it to develop for one more year because his earning potential could significantly increase.

“If I would have left this year, I’d of made a lot of money, but next year I can break the bank,” said Kindle.

Along with the finances, there’s also the respect that goes along with graduating and getting one’s degree. With the Horns going to a bowl game every year, Kindle will leave Texas with a lot of rings, but there’s one he says he’ll value more than the others.

“My pops told me, ‘You’d better stay, graduate and get that T-ring, because that’s the only one you’re going to get to keep,’ cause he’ll take all my bowl rings,” said Kindle, to laughter. “I feel like that T-ring will be worth more in the end, anyway.”

Coming back for his degree is something that’s very important to Lamarr Houston. His family has never had a college graduate.

“For me, it was to get my mom something she never had. She’s had five boys and she’s never gotten a college degree from one of them. The main thing for me was to get my mother what I promised her,” said Houston.

Muschamp said the academic side is the main reason he’s proud of his juniors for their decision.

“They’ve got their goals set for what they want to do in life,” said Muschamp. “They want to graduate from the University of Texas and they want to play their senior years and we’re excited about that.”

But where will Kindle play his senior season? The 6-4, 239-pound athlete started at strongside linebacker but was commonly used as a defensive end, especially on passing downs. On Monday, Muschamp said he’d like to move Kindle more towards a defensive end role.

“We need to get him in more regular down defensive end work, and that’s something we’re trying to do throughout spring to get him more familiar with that role,” said Muschamp.

As for after his senior year, Kindle said he’s not sure whether he’ll be a defensive end or a linebacker in the NFL, but that, frankly, he doesn’t care.

“It don’t matter to me, long as the money’s green,” said Kindle.

With Kindle and Houston returning it prevents the defensive line from losing all of its starters. But with so many players returning at every other position, there’s concern that the defensive line will be the weak link on the 2009 team. Houston said he hopes that those who were backups on the defensive line this past season will take on the challenge and put in the work necessary to maintain a high level of play.

“We’ve got a lot of work to, we’ve just got to put in the time in summer workouts and at the end of the season we’ll see what we did,” said Houston.

“And another thing,” said Kindle, adding on to Houston’s statement, “those guys that were behind (Brian) Orakpo know they’ve got big shoes to fill, so they’re going to work extra hard to try to maintain the level of play ‘Rak had, if not beat it.”

Along with Kindle playing more defensive end, Sam Acho and Eddie Jones could step up into starting roles, while Ben Alexander is expected to step in next to Houston as the other starter at defensive tackle (for more, see: 2009 starting line-up).

The biggest weapon returning is Kindle, who put up 10 sacks in 2008. But Kindle wants Texas fans to know that they haven’t seen anything yet.

“I didn’t go through offseason (workouts) last year because of injury. Just imagine how much better I can be with a full offseason and extra training to work on my hand placement, hand quickness, flexibility, the whole nine yards,” said Kindle. “The sky’s the limit.”