Former Badgers CB Tindal starts new chapter after going undrafted

September 20, 2018

It's been a few months, but Derrick Tindal still isn't sure why he wasn't in an NFL camp this spring or summer.

The former Wisconsin cornerback felt a tinge of sadness after going unwanted, but that feeling was quickly replaced by another emotion.

"I felt more relief," Tindal said, "like I didn't have to do it no more. All the hitting, all the everything, it was some weight lifted off my shoulders."

Tindal was definitely eyeing the NFL after four years at Wisconsin. He participated in pro day, and although he wasn't overly happy with his showing there, Tindal's agent had him convinced he would be a late-round draft choice. And if he happened to go undrafted, then certainly he'd be signed as a free agent.

When that didn't happen, and as he realized he wasn't even going to get a chance to try out for a team at a rookie minicamp, Tindal wondered if his injury history was holding him back. While he missed only three games in his four years at Wisconsin -- and started 38 of his 52 games -- he broke a wrist as a junior and fought through an ankle injury as a senior.

But with his body of work -- six interceptions, 26 passes broken up, making All-Big Ten teams his last two years -- Tindal thought he had at least earned a chance

"When all the free agents were getting picked up I was like, yeah man, I did all this, all this through the injuries … I didn't do nothing at all?," Tindal remembered thinking. "I didn’t do nothing to deserve a chance to walk it up to rookie camp? I was like, I ain't going to keep beating myself up about this, I have to do something I really want to anyway.

"I did ask why at first, but then it was then almost sad, then it wasn't like I was missing anything. Yeah, the money probably, but I'll find another way to make that."

While his agent mentioned the possibility of the Canadian Football League or one of the arena leagues, those had no appeal to Tindal. He was done with football, period. Besides, Tindal has greater plans.

It all begins for Tindal with a book. Or should we say books.

A noted superhero and comic book enthusiast, Tindal has written a graphic novel (although, he notes it is not, as one might expect, about a superhero) and has grandiose plans beyond that.

The book, entitled "Taletrius Johnson: The beginning of the end" -- the main character is named after Tindal's cousin, Taletrius Bradley, who was killed in a car accident last year -- is written, but Tindal, who admits he's no artist, is waiting on the drawings to be completed by others.

That hasn't stopped Tindal from starting to write his second book. And he has plans for more. A lot more.

"I have other book ideas. I'm probably not going to be able to write all these books myself, you feel me? I have other ideas, other pitches, to feed off my book," Tindal said. "I have two more other characters that have their own solo books that can mix with my book. I'd like to sign someone to write those books for me and take over that character. But basically I have to get (the initial one) published first and do good with that book."

But Tindal isn't just focusing on books (although everything eventually ties back to them). He still has two semesters to complete at Wisconsin -- he's majoring in human development and family studies -- in order to get his degree, which he plans on applying in the real world right away.

Tindal has worked with kids in the Madison area while in school. He envisions himself founding an organization to help underprivileged children, whether it's helping them obtain scholarships to college, teaching them football with a camp (it will be free, but promotionally tied in with his brand) or showing them aspects of life they might not have known existed -- such as reading and writing comic books.

Tindal aims to start his mentoring in Wisconsin but wants to get to South Florida "as quick as I can."

Tindal grew up in the Boulevard Gardens neighborhood of Ft. Lauderdale, an area that, per Tindal's previous comments, doesn't present kids with many opportunities outside of sports or the street life.

His goal: give kids from that neck of the woods the opportunities he never had.

"That's what I want to do (get kids out of his neighborhood). Teach kids, manage their life," Tindal said. "I never wanted to be just DT the football player, you feel me. I always read comic books, I always loved comic books. And I never thought it was cool when I was young to read comic books. And who knows, if I was to have started to write when I was younger I probably wouldn't even been playing football. I would have found other interests.

"But I definitely want to show kids, especially from rough neighborhoods, that it ain't just football, it ain't just music or the streets. We got different ways. I feel kids follow whatever is cool. A lot of kids look up to me, a lot of kids see me as cool, (he can) show them 'He made a book, why can't I? Why can't I be a doctor now?' Anything."

To his point, Tindal's books should relate to his audience. After all, that's who he's written them for. Some of the plots Tindal uses are taken from his life, his friends or people he's known.

"I'm trying to get a different view, a view from our side of things when it comes to superheroes and gods and stuff. It's a twist to a different kind of superhero," he explained. "I write it like me and my friends talk to each other. I use the slang we talk to each other. Not like curse words, but like the slang words we say to each other, the different meanings. I want to put a dictionary in the book so people know what I mean when the words are being used."

For now, though, Tindal waits. And goes to class. And relaxes, something he didn't get to do much of when he was playing football, what with the early morning workouts, practices, traveling and games.

"Basically (he's) learning how to be a normal student at stuff, just sitting back chilling," Tindal said.

Like many people, Tindal spends his Saturdays and Sundays watching football instead of playing it. He enjoys watching his former teammates play all weekend, but especially likes listening to announcers call Badgers games.

"On the field you always kind of wonder, 'I wonder what the commentator said about (a particular play)'," Tindal said with a laugh. "It's just fun watching it, sometimes the commentator talks crap and I talk crap to them even though they can't hear me through the TV set."

Tindal still maintains relationships with his former teammates, including Nick Nelson ("I talk to Nick all the time," he said) and Natrell Jamerson, both of whom were drafted this past year and landed on 53-man rosters. Both Nelson and Jamerson have told Tindal that from what they've seen, he should be in the league, too.

But Tindal harbors no bitterness.

"I'm really just happy to see them (in the NFL)," he said. "A lot people don't believe me when I say this, but I'm really, like, OK without playing. I'm perfectly fine. I honestly haven't felt this good in 23 years and I'm 23 now. I'm great."

Besides, a relationship with the league is all part of his master plan.

"Hopefully I can get the NFL to run some of my commercials if I drop a movie in the future," Tindal said in a half-joking, half-serious tone. "I don't have no beef with them."

First things first, though: Tindal has to get the book into people's hands, which not only includes having it completed with the drawings -- it's hard to have a graphic novel without them, after all -- but also getting it published.

Tindal doesn't talk about his plan being an "if" but rather a "when." If there's two things he doesn't lack, though, its confidence and optimism. Everything is set in motion, and it begins with his book.

"It's going to be fun for people to read," Tindal said before adding, "I just hope people give it a chance."

He's earned it.