Maintaining composure

Lance Kendricks

Lance Kendricks, a 6-foot-4, 211-pound freshman wide receiver from Milwaukee King High School, comes to the University of Wisconsin football program carrying the immense expectations that go along with being a highly ranked prospect.

For those who follow University of Wisconsin football closely, Lance Kendricks is already a household name. Fair or not, the 6-foot-4, 211-pound wide receiver from Milwaukee King High School will open his freshman season with tremendous expectations.

The reasons are simple. Kendricks was a four-star recruit according to Scout.com. Only one other prospect in the Badgers' class of 2006, left tackle Jake Bscherer, received four stars. Kendricks, Bscherer and right tackle Gabe Carimi, who was a Parade All-American, clearly have the most renowned credentials in the Badgers' 2006 class.

Just as importantly, Kendricks plays a position of obvious need for the Badgers this fall. Wisconsin's top three receivers last season—Brandon Williams, Jonathan Orr and Brandon White—exhausted their eligibility, as did the team's top three tight ends. Obviously, UW will be looking for pass receivers to step up.

Several upperclassmen receivers will have every opportunity to command playing time once fall camp begins Aug. 7. But all eyes will be on Kendricks to see how quickly his considerable potential might become reality.

It is a lot to ask a college freshman to deal with: get accustomed to a new setting, tougher schoolwork, a more rigorous workout regimen. And, by the way, would you mind being a standout the moment you step on the field?

Kendricks is well aware of the microscope he could find himself under, but he shrugs it off.

"I was actually talking to a couple friends about that," he said yesterday afternoon, in between practices on the UW-Whitewater campus for the Wisconsin Football Coaches Association's South All-Star team. "They asked me how I deal with the pressure. I try not to look at it like that. I try to act just the same. Still go out on the weekend, still go to practice every day, and just have fun, and just try not to think about it. And when it comes, it just comes. So I won't be all nervous about it."

Kendricks comes across as a person who will not ruffle easily. But the challenge is not only to succeed under the spotlight, but to stay on track even if there are struggles early—that is, to persevere through the normal trajectory of a collegiate student-athlete. Most players, after all, take a few years to develop, regardless of what their résumé might say before they arrive as freshmen.

"Just kind of keep composure," Kendricks said, when asked about dealing with the expectations. "Not try to get all stressed out… Just be calm about it."

Kendricks has been living in Madison for the past month and taking part in weight lifting and agility work with the Badgers' strength and conditioning staff. He has already chosen his class schedule for his first semester of college. And twice a week he joins the rest of the team's receivers and its quarterbacks to work on pass-catching drills, in an effort to build rapport and timing.

"Everything is a lot faster, everything is a lot more precise," Kendricks said. "… If you are not there, then the ball is going to be there anyway. If you are not there, it is like, oh well, it is your fault."

The summer regimen has given Kendricks an opportunity to assess his expectations for the upcoming season within the college setting.

"I want to play," he said. "And so far it is looking like I will play. Basically I just want to fit in real smoothly without me being like an issue just by being a freshman. I want to feel like another player on the team—not like an underclassman…

"As far as school, I just hope everything goes well. I was well-prepared for it by going to King. I think everything should go well."

In addition to playing football, Kendricks still plans to compete for the Wisconsin track and field team. He placed second in the triple jump at the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association Division 1 state championships last month, for the second consecutive year, with a leap of 46-7 3/4.

"I could have done better," Kendricks said of his senior year of track. "But… I was trying not to fall off as a senior (academically). I was more focused on school as far as academics and that during track. But I think it went OK. It could have went better… I'm not disappointed. I still went to state."

[According to a July 12 report in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the WIAA has vacated the 2006 track results of Victor Reynolds, who won the state triple jump championship, and ruled him ineligible due to a transfer violation. As a result, the WIAA now considers Kendricks the 2006 state champion in the triple jump.]

As is usually the case for athletes competing in both football and track, Kendricks expects to join the track program for its indoor season following the Badgers' bowl game. He will then take part in track until spring practices begin, and will rejoin the track team for the remainder of the outdoor season once spring practice is complete.

Kendricks is currently rooming at UW with cornerback Kimuel Royston. He will live with quarterback Scott Tolzien during the academic year.

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