COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) Missouri linebacker Kentrell Brothers often wears a T-shirt bearing the acronym FEWDM, or ”For Everyone Who Doubts Me.”
The Guthrie, Oklahoma, native is starting to get some recognition.
”He’s one of the best linebackers in the country,” quarterback Maty Mauk said of Brothers, named Southeastern Conference defensive player of the week. ”He’s a guy that wants to play at the next level.”
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Brothers leads the nation in tackles and piled up 16 stops for the second straight week along with two interceptions in the 22nd-ranked Tigers’ 27-20 victory over Arkansas State on Saturday.
”It was a great feeling,” Brothers said. ”There were a lot of great games played this weekend, and a lot of players worthy of that award. It feels great that they chose me.”
Failing to earn first-team all-SEC honors in the preseason has definitely been motivation for Brothers, who chose Missouri over Arizona, Arizona State, Tulsa, Vanderbilt and Washington. He had 122 tackles last season, most among SEC returning players, but he was a third-team preseason pick after being voted second-team all-SEC last year.
”We’re glad he didn’t,” coach Gary Pinkel joked. ”That lit a little fire in him.”
Brothers devoted much of the offseason prior to his senior season to lifting weights and studying game film. Pinkel said the most rewarding part of his job is seeing players develop as Brothers has.
”He’s taken his game to another level,” Pinkel said. ”He’s made some huge plays for us.”
Brothers said several former Missouri teammates have reached out in recent weeks to congratulate him, including Zavier Gooden, who plays for the Tennessee Titans, and Will Ebner – who was a senior starter at middle linebacker in 2012 when Brothers was a freshman understudy.
”Will Ebner has always told me he thinks I can be one of the greatest linebackers to ever play here,” Brothers said. ”That was something that really stuck to me. That means a lot coming from Ebner. Ebner was a great linebacker here.”
Brothers set a career-best for tackles in the opener against Southeast Missouri State. He also blocked a punt that Aarion Penton returned 41 yards for a touchdown.
Pinkel compared Brothers’ instincts to former Missouri linebacker Sean Weatherspoon, who plays for the Arizona Cardinals.
”What he’s doing right now, there’s no thinking,” Pinkel said. ”He’s just going. Spoon actually got that way too, and did a great job that way.”
Weatherspoon was the last Missouri player to make 16 tackles in back-to-back games, doing it in 2008.
A likely 2016 NFL draft choice, Brothers’ stock is improving.
According to NFLdraftscout.com, Brothers currently is the fourth-best inside linebacker available, and is projected to be a third-round pick. When the season began, he was listed as the ninth-best available, and was projected as a fifth or sixth-round pick.
Brothers will look to add to his tackle total Saturday when Missouri (2-0) hosts Connecticut (2-0). Kickoff is set for 11 a.m. CDT.