By LARRY VAUGHT
Darian Kinnard verbally committed to Kentucky early in the recruiting process and was the first offensive lineman in the 2018 recruiting class. He joked he went from “no stars to four stars” in the recruiting rankings before his senior season at powerhouse St. Ignatius in Cleveland, Ohio.
At times he said he was almost overwhelmed by recruiting but he didn’t bail on his commitment to Kentucky despite having what he called some “buyer’s remorse” during the recruiting process as Penn State, Tennessee, UCLA and others made a big push to sign him.
“No matter where I went, I was expecting to do great and then leave early (for the NFL). This is a great opportunity I got from Kentucky,” Kinnard, a Knoxville native, said. “I love my family here. I stayed committed to Kentucky. I just had to sit back and re-evaluate when so many big schools started coming after me. I stuck with Kentucky and that’s the best life decision I could have ever made.
“I am not a cocky person, but I believe in myself. I had full faith I could come here and overcome anything thrown at me. I had to hit the ground running and go to work.”
He played in nine games his first year but started two of the final three, including Louisville where his blocks helped spring touchdown runs by Benny Snell (24 yards), A.J. Rose (75 yards) and Kavosiey Smoke (37 yards). He started every game last year and now is a preseason All-American.
“At times I wish I could have started more games as a freshman but people do not want to put faith in a true freshman,” Kinnard said. “I get you trust the older guy more. It is a coach’s job if you have a bad game and put him on the chopping block. I understood that.
“I got my name out there and next year (2019) was my time and I took over and did what I knew I could do. I kept my nose to the grindstone. That’s how I am because I know I can always be better.”
During the quarantine time when he was not allowed on campus to work out he improvised. He lives in a house with his mother, a nurse, and found a way to use “big logs” in the back of the yard for his workouts.
“I would throw them around to get my muscles moving. I took a week off when we had finals but I did it every other day the whole summer until we got back,” Kinnard said. “Two days I would go to the park and jog. I just kept myself busy. Nothing can prepare you like a weight room but I tried to stay as ready as I could.