Kayvon Thibodeaux stepped in front of cameras and microphones following practice Tuesday for the first time since arriving at Oregon for a wide-ranging interview that centered on football and family.
The nation’s No. 1 recruit discussed his desire to earn a starting spot on Oregon’s defense while also recalling some frightening experiences growing up in Los Angeles.
Thibodeaux can fill up a camera lens and fill out a reporter's notebook.
“I don’t do this for the fans, the fame or the cameras,” he said during a nearly nine-minute interview. “I am doing this because I am on a mission. Once you find your mission, you are set.”
“To change my family dynamic and get us out of poverty,” he explained.
The 6-foot-5 defensive end graduated early from Oaks Christian School in Westlake Village, Calif., to arrive at Oregon for the start of winter term in January.
“L.A. is what you hear, 'Straight out of Compton', all that is real,” he said. “I’ve got stories, but it’s everything you hear. I’ve been shot at, been in situations that were life or death, real experiences. When you live that life, it doesn’t feel the same. Looking at it feels like a horror movie, but it’s not, it’s just life.”
Thibodeaux was ranked as the nation’s top recruit by ESPN and was the named the national defensive high school player of the year by USA Today. He had Alabama, Florida, Florida State and USC among his finalists before choosing the Ducks during a nationally televised announcement.
“You don’t get away from where you come from, but you have to find your own path,” he explained. “I felt my path brought me here. This is a pit stop.”
Thibodeaux is the highest-ranked recruit to ever sign with the Ducks and seems likely to be off to the NFL in three years, but first he is trying to earn his spot at Oregon. He played mostly with the second team on defense during Saturday’s open scrimmage in Hillsboro and said that is where he has been throughout the spring.
“I want to run with the ones, that’s the goal right now,” he said.
Thibodeaux, who intercepted backup quarterback Tyler Shough to end the scrimmage, could be in the starting lineup when he debuts for the Ducks on Aug. 31 against Auburn in Arlington, Texas.
“We have got plenty of practices left,” Oregon defensive coordinator Andy Avalos said. “He gets his reps in there too. We are excited about what he is doing. … He has been very disruptive and productive in the run game and the passing game.”
When Avalos was hired in February, he initially mentioned Thibodeaux as a possible candidate for the STUD linebacker position, but he has played on the defensive line all spring.
“I’m a defensive end, hands down, no linebacker for me,” Thibodeaux said. “I might drop back, but my hand is in the dirt.”
Thibodeaux weighed 227 pounds when he arrived at Oregon in January and is up to 241 with the hope of reaching 250 by the start of the season.
“People say because I’m pretty light that I should be standing up playing linebacker, but I will be able to gain some weight,” he said.
Thibodeaux has worked on technique with defensive line coach Joe Salave’a.
“At this point, I think it is about my strength,” Thibodeaux said. “A lot of guys are bigger, faster and stronger, so I have to get bigger, faster and stronger. Coach Joe is the technician. He’s teaching and I’m trying to implement it into my game. Everything is going well.”
Thibodeaux’s mission is underway and is somewhat stated in the “Chosen One” tattoo he has on his right forearm.
“I got it because nobody in my family has really done anything, the name Thibodeaux means nothing,” he explained. “With the opportunity I have got and the talent that I have been blessed with, I am able to change the dynamic of my future and my family’s future.”