Trevard Lindley is about to put the finishing touches on what could be the best-ever career by a University of Kentucky defensive back. Lindley broke into the starting lineup the first game of his redshirt freshman season and has been making big play after big play ever since. Six of his nine career interceptions have been a key factor in wins, he holds the school career record for pass breakups, and he already has completed his bachelor's degree in art studio.
Lindley was named a pre-season first-team All-American by both ESPN.com and Sports Illustrated and is on the pre-season watch list for the Nagurski and Bednarik awards, which are given to the nation's top defensive player.
■ Game-clinching interception in win over Georgia.
■ Acrobatic end-zone interception and a fumble recovery in Music City Bowl win over Clemson.
■ Interception of Louisville QB Brian Brohm on the first play of the game that set the tone for the Cats' first win over U of L in five seasons.
■ 66-yard fumble return touchdown late in the first half at Arkansas that cut the Hogs' lead to 20-14 going into halftime. The Cats would rally in the second half for a 42-29 win.
■ Touchdown save on South Carolina's opening drive. He punched the ball out of tight end Weslye Saunders' hands at the 2-yard line as Saunders was about to score. The ball went out of the end zone for a touchback, and UK got it back at the 20.
■ Fourth-quarter interception in three-overtime win over No. 1 Louisiana State.
■ Career-high eight tackles against Tennessee with an interception that helped force overtime.
■ Forced a fumble and had a career-high three pass breakups in Music City Bowl win over Florida State.
■ Set up UK's first offensive touchdown against Louisville with a 24-yard interception return to the Cardinals' 2-yard line.
■ 28-yard interception return for a touchdown gave UK a 7-0 lead vs. South Carolina.
When you're not playing football or studying, what do you enjoy doing? "Watching TV or playing video games."
As you enter your senior year, what is your favorite football memory? "Probably against Arkansas my sophomore year when I got my first collegiate touchdown (a 66-yard fumble return)."
The best part of being a college football player is ... "You get to play the game you love."
If you played on offense, what position would you play and why? "Receiver, because that's the only position that's my size."
Who is your favorite NFL team? "The Falcons. They're my home team."
Who is your favorite NFL player? "Deion Sanders and Sean Taylor."
If everything goes according to plan and you wind up in the NFL, what's the first thing you plan to buy after you sign your contract? "A car."
Lindley surprised many, including UK Coach Rich Brooks, by turning down the 2009 NFL Draft, where he was projected as a second-round pick, to return to UK for his senior season. ESPN.com's Todd McShay has Lindley as the first cornerback being taken in his 2010 Mock Draft, going 19th overall to the Houston Texans.
■ Size. Lindley has been measured at 6 feet, which is good height for a corner.
■ Excels at press man coverage. Could step right in and be a nickel back in the NFL.
■ Maturity. Lindley will be 24 when the 2010 NFL Draft takes place.
■ Excellent ball skills. Has nine career interceptions, 34 pass breakups, three fumble recoveries and two forced fumbles.
■ Great recovery speed. Lindley's 40-time won't blow away anyone, but he closes on the ball as well as any corner in college football.
■ Durability. Has dealt with some minor nagging injuries but has never missed a start and has played in all 39 games over his three-year career.
■ Physical strength. This has been a knock on Lindley the past couple of seasons, although he did add 15 pounds over the summer to get up to 190. Lindley has been a solid tackler at the college level but must prove he can take on blocks and make plays on runners against bigger and stronger players in the NFL.
■ Needs to prove he can be as effective in zone coverage as he is in man-to-man.
Tricks of the trade
Lindley goes over some of the qualities that it takes to survive as an SEC defensive back:
■ Having a short memory. "You have to be ready for the next play."
■ Tackle well.
■ Film study. "You have to know the receiver before you go out on the field."
What others are saying
■ "I think he's the best cornerback in the country," UK Coach Rich Brooks said. "I don't know of anybody who's made more big plays for his team over the last few years than Trevard has for us."
■ "He's just a very productive player who always has a huge impact on a game," college football analyst Phil Steele said. "I've got him at the top of my list of cornerbacks for the 2010 Draft, and he could possibly end up in the top 10" overall.
■ "It's his playmaking ability that separates him from the rest," said ESPN.com's Todd McShay. "He's a very instinctive guy who plays the ball better than any cornerback in the nation."
■ "Trevard was younger when I was going up against him, so I took advantage of him a little bit," said former UK and current St. Louis Rams receiver Keenan Burton. "But I knew he was going to be special going into his redshirt sophomore year. We used to push him around, but all of a sudden he started to get physical and fight back. I think he grew into the player he did going up against myself and some of the other guys we had. Now he dominates everybody they put in front of him."
■ "The first time I met him, I thought he was being lazy on me in practice," said Andy Dorsey, Lindley's coach at Hiram High School in Georgia. "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."