In an interview with the Houston Chronicle, Kayvon Thibodeaux, a defensive tackle for Texas Tech said he spends hours every day playing chess online. He uses strategies and techniques from his favorite game to improve his football skills.
Kayvon Thibodeaux is a top NFL draft prospect, and he uses basic chess strategies to hone his skill. He also uses other techniques like stealing moves from opponents to improve his game.
INDIANAPOLIS — Research, theft, and strategy are all on the table.
Kayvon Thibodeaux approaches the passer in this manner. He had a lot of success with that at Oregon, so there’s no need for him to quit now. He’ll keep watching footage of some of the NFL’s finest pass-rushers and copying what he sees so he can incorporate it into his game.
And he’s not bashful about letting everyone know about it.
Thibodeaux said Friday at the NFL Scouting Combine, “I sort of take from everyone.” “I’m a student of the game, so I don’t really have a favorite [NFL pass-rusher right now], but I just love to take… a little bit of everything and integrate it in my game and keep evolving.”
When Thibodeaux was a student at Oaks Christian School in Westlake Village, California, he began by studying recordings of players like Willie McGinest on the internet. He saw even more during his three years at Oregon, from guys like Maxx Crosby, T.J. Watt, DeMarcus Ware, Chandler Jones, and Von Miller.
At the following session, he’d work on a move he loved or wanted to employ, particularly if it came from Miller, whom the 6-foot-5, 258-pound Thibodeaux idolizes.
“If I don’t do a move, I’m going to learn how to work that move and how to improve at it,” Thibodeaux said. “I’m going to put that into practice first, and then I’ll adapt it to the game.”
“… Because I’m a person who can take it straight off the video and onto the field, I was able to do it a lot. I literally took from the film to the field on most of [Miller’s] pass rushes, and that benefited me greatly.”
Miller’s footwork and body lean were examined by Thibodeaux, who claimed it helped him be a much better stand-up rusher for the Ducks last season, when he produced seven sacks and 12 tackles for loss to go along with a career-high 49 tackles.
Thibodeaux, who admitted he was just a speed rusher his freshman year at Oregon, said one of the things he learned from observing others was the value of being strategic. He enjoys playing chess and compares it to rushing the quarterback because you must plan two or three moves ahead.
Thibodeaux said, “I’m not the largest person, I’m not the strongest guy, and I’m not the quickest guy.” “You have to find out what’s going to give you that advantage, just as Von Miller did, and for me, it’s my head.” I’m a chess player, so I’m used to thinking ahead. How do I control the game and tell the offensive tackle what to do so that I can get what I want out of the situation?
“Chess is life, and chess is football, as they say. You said that you’re going to make your first move, and that your first move would set up your second move, correct? Then you have to plan your third move ahead of time, so when you speak about pass rush, I’ll start with speed. I always come at you fast, fast, fast. And then my power movements will set up my counter, and my counter will set up my power moves.”
Thibodeaux was awarded the Pac-12 Defensive Freshman of the Year after being named the USA Today High School Football Defensive Player of the Year in 2018. As a sophomore, he received the Morris Trophy, which is presented to the finest offensive and defensive lineman in the league as chosen by the players, and he was a unanimous All-American this past season. In 30 games at Oregon, he had 19 sacks and 35.5 tackles for loss.
And now he’s a front-runner to be the first overall pick in the NFL Draft next month.
“I believe the most important thing I want to convey to the teams is that I’m a true student of the game, or that I really like this game,” Thibodeaux said. “It’s helped me a lot.” Football has provided me with a wealth of knowledge. It has helped me much in my personal development. It’ll stay there till I pass away…. Football is my first priority, regardless of what else I do off the field.
“Winning a Super Bowl, earning a yellow jacket, and becoming the defensive rookie of the year are all on my bucket list.”
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