College roommates Barr, Kendricks excited to be reunited on Vikings

Former UCLA roommates Anthony Barr (left) and Eric Kendricks have been reunited as Vikings linebackers.

Kirby Lee, Matthew Emmons

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — At first, Anthony Barr thought the text from a good friend was just a joke.

One of the first people Eric Kendricks reached out to immediately after being drafted in the second round by the Minnesota Vikings was his former college roommate, Barr. A year after Barr was drafted by the Vikings out of UCLA in the first round, Kendricks was joining him in Minnesota.

"Are you serious?" Barr texted back Kendricks.

Kendricks replied that he was serious, which was followed by another text of doubt from Barr.

Together, the former UCLA stars will try to overhaul Minnesota’s linebacking corps.

"I’m pretty excited," Barr said on a conference call with Vikings reporters after Kendricks was drafted. "That’s one of my best friends . . . Stuff like this doesn’t really happen. So, it’s pretty special and I’m excited, selfishly for myself because we have a great relationship and obviously for the team because I know that he’s going to do great things for us."

Barr splashed onto the scene as a rookie last year with 70 tackles, four sacks and two forced fumbles. His fumble recovery for a touchdown in overtime beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The outside linebacker drafted ninth overall started immediately and played 12 games before a knee injury ended his season.

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Kendricks was a tackling machine at UCLA and figures to have a good chance to start right away next to Barr as the Vikings’ middle linebacker. Kendricks won the Butkus Award last season, given to the top linebacker in college football, after tallying 149 tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss, four sacks and three interceptions.

"He’s a very tough football player and very smart," Barr said. "He’s physical, hard-working and he’s a natural leader. He’s just going to do great things for us and I couldn’t be happier."

Barr’s presence can aid Kendricks’ transition to the NFL. Also helping Kendricks is he already graduated from UCLA, finishing with a 3.2 grade-point average as a political science major. Unlike Barr, who had yet to graduate and returned to school after the draft, Kendricks will be able to report for Minnesota’s offseason program.

The two have also talked about the Vikings’ defense, as well. Minnesota needed a new middle linebacker and Kendricks was one of the top options in the draft. Vikings general manager Rick Spielman called Kendricks the most instinctive linebacker available.

Kendricks and Barr talked about the possibility of a reunion, though Barr thought the odds were against it.

"This was the talk, AB was like ‘Hey Eric, we could really use you,’ and things like that," Kendricks said. "He would tell me things throughout the season, he always just said it joking around kind of, but seriously at the same time, that he just wants to play with me. So it’s just awesome that that’s going to happen."

Spielman hasn’t been averse to drafting college teammates.

Two years ago, Minnesota drafted Penn State linebackers Gerald Hodges and Michael Mauti, as well as UCLA punter Jeff Locke and offensive linemen Jeff Baca. The previous year, it was Matt Kalil and Rhett Ellison from USC,  Notre Dame defensive backs Harrison Smith and Robert Blanton, and Arkansas receivers Jarius Wright and Greg Childs.

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Spielman says the connection is more coincidence than strategy. But he also had his eye on Kendricks early. So much so, that Spielman didn’t even talk to Barr about his former roommate. Spielman didn’t want his interest in Kendricks to become public knowledge.

"He tweets too much," Spielman quipped of not talking to Barr. "You know how I am about Twitter. Guys that we like we can just say, ‘Alright we’re good, we’re not going to mention his name anymore.’"

Twitter and texting would have to wait until Kendricks and Barr were teammates once again.

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