Four and a half years ago, as he was guiding Peoria High School to its first IHSA state championship, Kendrick Green wouldn’t have believed how his story is playing out now.
He helped the Lions win the 2016 Class 5A state championship against Vernon Hills at Memorial Stadium in Champaign. After just four years at Illinois – one redshirt season and three seasons playing on that same field at Memorial Stadium – Green is leaving a year of eligibility on the table and heading to the NFL early.
“I would’ve told you you’re crazy,” Green said Tuesday. “But I’ve been working for this my whole life. I feel like now’s the time to take the shot.”
The 6-foot-4, 315-pound offensive lineman was participating in Illinois’ Pro Day on Wednesday.
It has been quite a journey for the Peoria native. Following his redshirt season in 2017, he started every game for Illinois over the past three years. He played mostly at left guard, but also started a few games at center.
When deciding whether to leave early, Green consulted with a number of people. That list included former Illinois coach Lovie Smith and former Illini offensive lineman Nick Allegretti. Allegretti, a second-year pro and former Lincoln-Way East lineman, started in Super Bowl LV for the Kansas City Chiefs last month.
“He told me just try blocking that noise from outside, people telling you how great you are, how bad you are,” Green said. “Don’t worry about those things. Just every day in training go work on your craft and just be prepared. Really, approach it just like you’re playing football.”
Green is a potential mid- to late-round draft choice. If he hears his name on draft weekend, it will likely come on day three. NFL.com projects him as a potential starter within his first few years in the NFL. His versatility between guard and center will only help his draft stock.
Four years ago, he chose Illinois over offers from Iowa and Minnesota, among others. He was a three-sport athlete who excelled on the wrestling mat, too, earning a fourth-place medal at state wrestling as a senior.
He felt he was under-recruited then, and to some extent he’s keeping that mentality heading into the draft.
“I felt like I should’ve got more schools that I wanted,” said Green, a First-Team All-Big Ten performer in 2020. “But I ended up here and I’m very happy with my decision. But yeah, I always try to play with a chip on my shoulder. I always feel like there’s somebody on TV or somebody in the stands who’s never watched me play before. And if they’re watching me, I want to have a good first impression.”
Since declaring for the draft in December, Green has been in Texas training with Duke Manyweather, a prominent private offensive line coach who works with many NFL linemen. Green ran an unofficial 4.85 in the 40-yard dash during Wednesday’s Pro Day, which for a lineman is flying.
Green declined to comment on which NFL teams he has spoken with already. The hometown Bears have a higher need at tackle than at guard, though. Green said he doesn’t pay much attention to where he’s at in mock drafts or anything like that. The feedback he has heard from NFL personnel has been good, and that’s what matters most to him.
“I just want to show the NFL I’m a dependable guy, durable guy,” Green said.
Green plans to watch the draft in Peoria with his family.