Trevard Lindley is the last guy you'd see bringing attention to himself on the football field, and off the field, he's not going to wow you with memorable quotes a la Dicky Lyons.
But that doesn't mean that Lindley, a 6-foot, 175-pound junior All-America candidate for the University of Kentucky, lacks creativity.
In addition to mastering his craft as one of the best cornerbacks in the nation, Lindley is also an aspiring artist who hopes to one day design video games.
But the video games may have to wait, as Lindley has put together one of the best careers ever by a UK defensive back and should be a high NFL Draft pick whenever his Kentucky career ends.
Lindley is already the Wildcats' career leader in pass breakups with 31, and he has had more momentum-changing, highlight-reel plays than any Kentucky defensive player in recent memory.
UK Coach Rich Brooks said Lindley is as good of a cornerback as he's had in 24 years of college coaching. That group includes Alex Molden, a standout on Brooks' 1995 Oregon team that reached the Rose Bowl who was drafted 11th in the 1996 NFL Draft by the New Orleans Saints; and Steve Brown, a four-time all Pac-10 selection who was a third-round pick of the Houston Oilers in 1983. Molden played nine seasons in the pros with the Saints, San Diego Chargers and Detroit Lions, while Brown played eight years with the Oilers and is now Brooks' defensive coordinator at Kentucky.
"He isn't the most physical as far as strength and size, but coverage-wise and interception-wise, he's as good as I've coached," Brooks said.
Lexington native Lonny Demaree, who has been a UK football observer for nearly 40 years, said Lindley ranks as the best Wildcat corner he's ever seen.
"I can only think of two other guys who are even in his class; Eric Kelly and Dallas Owens," Demaree said. "But I'd have to say (Lindley) is the best."
Diamond in the rough
Back in 2003, then-UK recruiting coordinator Joker Phillips was making his regular rounds in Georgia and was stopping by Hiram High School to check on Lindley and his high school teammate, Antonio Sims.
Sims was the higher-rated prospect and ended up signing with Georgia. Lindley suffered a knee injury his senior year, causing schools like Georgia, Tennessee and North Carolina to back off of him. Lindley was only a two-star prospect, but Phillips hung in there.
"They had to take a gamble on Trevard," said Hiram Coach Andy Dorsey. "Coach Phillips and I had a lot of conversations, and he was a little nervous. He asked me who I'd take if I had to pick between (Sims) and Trevard, and while they were both great, I told him that I'd take Trevard. With his demeanor, work ethic on the field and in the classroom, I just felt like he was the guy."
But Phillips had some work to do in connecting with the quiet and reserved Lindley. Phillips followed the same blueprint that he used in recruiting former UK running back Rafael Little, who was similar in demeanor to Lindley.
"One of the things I've learned is that I really enjoy recruiting quiet kids," Phillips said. "Because once you can get them to talk, you've got them. The key is, you don't ask closed questions. You don't ask them did you win the game. You ask them, 'Tell me about the game. Tell me about how you played.' That's how you get them to talk, and I think any time I can get that done I've got a chance at them."
Lindley signed with UK in Feb. 2004, but delayed his enrollment until the following January in order to rehab his knee. After redshirting in 2005, he earned freshman All-America honors in 2006.
"I think grayshirting was huge for him," Phillips said. "He was a mature, 21-year-old redshirt freshman. I don't think he would have had a freshman All-American season if he hadn't had the opportunity to both grayshirt and redshirt."
A quiet assassin
For anybody who has spent any length of time around the UK football program, Lindley's quiet nature is legendary.
"I went out before one of the games and ran into some fans," said UK senior defensive end Nii Adjei Oninku, who's Lindley's roommate. "They said they saw our episode of 'Cribs' and said, 'Trevard sure doesn't say a lot, does he? I laughed, because we all see how quiet he is and it's funny to me that everybody else realizes it, too."
Lindley had a perfect opportunity to let loose a little when he made what he calls the best play of his career, stripping the ball out of the hands South Carolina's Kenny McKinley and running it back 28 yards for an interception-return TD. But instead of drawing attention to himself, Lindley simply accepted congratulations from his teammates and handed the ball to the referee.
"We would have loved to have seen him go crazy," Oninku said. "We always do stuff to try and get him riled up, but he doesn't fall for it. That's just Trevard."
But Lindley has ways of expressing himself. UK defensive tackle Ricky Lumpkin says Lindley talks plenty of trash when playing video games online.
"The thing about it, he's not even that good," Lumpkin said. "Yet he's constantly trash-talking. All you've got to do is get on Xbox 360 online and find his screen name, and you'll see him talking all kinds of trash."
And while you won't see him doing any routines after scoring a touchdown, UK defensive end Jeremy Jarmon said Lindley's actually a pretty good dancer.
"He's got a few moves," Jarmon said. "He's not as good as me, but if you turn on some music, he can hold his own. Trevard doesn't say a whole lot around people he doesn't know very well, but he's still got a great personality. You can have a great personality without being a big talker."
Lindley also expresses himself in the art studio and has been drawing since he can remember. "I'd start out doing cartoon characters and stuff, and it just kind of took off from there," Lindley said.
Gerald Ferstman, an associate professor in the UK Art Department, specializes in printmaking and drawing and works with Lindley. He said Lindley takes his artwork seriously.
"He's working on a cartoon strip for me right now," Ferstman said. "He's very humble and very serious about what he does. He's the total opposite of the stereotype of a star athlete who's taking your class just to get a good grade.
"I've talked with him several times and told him, even if you make it to the next level in football, you still need to have something to keep you going. And he's a smart kid. He understands that."
The next level
Lindley, who has spent much of his UK career under the radar, is starting to get national notice. He was named a midseason first-team All-American by Collegefootballnews.com. ESPN.com analyst Todd McShay has Lindley rated as one of the top underclassmen available and currently projects him as a late first or early second-round pick if he were to enter the 2009 NFL Draft.
"He's got adequate speed, but not elite speed," McShay said. "I think his playmaking ability is what puts him up that high."
Lindley said he'll get an evaluation from the NFL Draft Advisory Board after the season before making a decision on whether to return for his senior year. Lindley's father, Terry, said agents are already calling about his son but would prefer that his son stay in school and get his degree.
Regardless of the decision Lindley ultimately makes, Brown said he'll continue to push him.
"He's very gifted, and the sky's the limit for him, so a lot of times he can just go through the motions," Brown said. "My goal is to make him the best, and he's making some great plays, but he's not in the Hall of Fame yet. It's easier for a guy that has a lot of talent to not work as hard as he should. To play and start in the NFL, you've got to be consistently good every snap. There are no plays off, because they'll find you. That's why you train yourself now in practice so it can become second nature."
Dorsey said Lindley has what UK fans might call the 'Tayshaun Prince' syndrome in that he's so smooth that at times it looks like he's not working hard.
"The first time I met him, I thought he was being lazy on me in practice," Dorsey said. "He just runs so effortlessly. You'll think somebody is pulling away from him, but he's so smooth in how he runs, and he can change directions with ease. He can always close and put himself in position to make a play."
That's Trevard Lindley: making plays and making artwork without making a lot of noise.