On Friday, Oregon Ducks edge rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux showcased his chess game and a strong acumen for football.
INDIANAPOLIS — Kayvon Thibodeaux wants to apply pressure. On chess boards and quarterbacks.
On Friday morning, the former star Oregon edge rusher spoke to a group of tired media folks at the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine. In his more than 20 minutes speaking, Thibodeaux conveyed a love of chess, harkening back to childhood times with his uncles in South Central Los Angeles.
Whether behind a board or on turf, Thibodeaux’s strategy doesn’t change.
“I’m very aggressive,” Thibodeaux said. “You have to put people in pressure moments, so you get what you want out of the situation. I’m putting my queen out there first and I’m making you make decisions. A lot of people make bad decisions when they’re under pressure. Just like quarterbacks.”
Learning the game by playing an app, Thibodeaux became a student of the craft. In recent years, the same is true of his football acumen. Growing into becoming a top prospect, Thibodeaux has studied a litany of edge rushers, including Von Miller, Chandler Jones, T.J. Watt, Willie McGinest and DeMarcus Ware.
And while he took something from each of their games, Thibodeaux’s interest in chess speaks to his overall philosophy.
“Chess is life, and chess is football,” Thibodeaux said. “You talk about doing your first move, your first move is going to set up your second move, and then you’re thinking your third move ahead. When you think about pass rush, I’m going to hit you with speed first. Speed, speed, speed. Then that’s going to set up my power moves, and then my power moves are going to set up my counter.”
Currently, Thibodeaux is competing with Michigan’s Aidan Hutchinson for top billing in a loaded draft class for edge rushers. At Oregon, the California native notched 19 sacks over three years before declaring for the NFL Draft. Last year, he totaled seven sacks and 12 tackles for loss, helping the Ducks win 10 games.
Now entering the professional ranks, Thibodeaux has to convince a club why he’s worth a top-10 pick. Having met with the New York Giants and New York Jets among others, he’s eager to prove his worth at the next level.
“I think the biggest thing I want to articulate to teams is that I’m really a student of the game,” Thibodeaux said. “I really love this game. It’s done a lot for me. Football has taught me a lot, helped me grow a lot through my life. It will be there until the day I die. For me, just letting teams know this is the main thing, and I’m always going to keep the main thing, the main thing. No matter what I do off the field, football is my main focus. Winning a Super Bowl, getting a gold jacket, being Defensive Rookie of the Year is on my list of goals.”
Working out on Saturday at Lucas Oil Stadium, Thibodeaux has a chance to prove his point athletically, making a case for himself as a top pick.
Before then, it’s team interviews and strategizing. Then, it’s his move.