Javon Kinlaw: “I’m not even supposed to be here”

Chris Vinel

INDIANAPOLIS — Javon Kinlaw claims he is a boring person.

He’s not.

He spent a portion of his childhood homeless.

He once skipped school for a month straight.

He started his college career at Jones County Community College in Mississippi, performing well enough on the football field and in the classroom to earn a scholarship from South Carolina.

From there, it’s kind of been a blur for Kinlaw.

He’s now just months away from becoming a millionaire by playing the game he loves.

After spending his final three seasons in Columbia, S.C., he projects as a surefire first-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. In recent mock drafts, the 22-year-old defensive tackle has been a target of the Atlanta Falcons.

Thursday, at the NFL Combine, Kinlaw stood on a podium and simply took in the scene.

“God is good, man. There is a God. I’m not even supposed to be here,” Kinlaw said with a smile. “It’s a big blessing for me. I take it seriously. I never take it for granted, being here. I’m just soaking it all in — just looking around the room, like, ‘Man, I’m really here.’”

“I always tell people: ‘I didn’t go to junior college for football,’” he said. “Really. I just went because I had somewhere to sleep. I had some free food to eat. That’s really why I went. I didn’t really go in with the expectation that, ‘Man, I’m going to go to the SEC, I’m going to go to the league.’ I just wanted somewhere to sleep.”

Football has worked out pretty well for Kinlaw, regardless of his original intent.

Last season, his senior year, Kinlaw recorded 35 total tackles, six for loss, and six sacks.

He chose not to participate in drills at the Combine, instead electing to work out solely at South Carolina’s pro day, March 19.

Even without the Combine, Kinlaw is set to change his future. He wants to buy a house for his mom and a new car for himself. He will have the opportunity to provide his 11-month-old daughter with the childhood he never had.

So, what would he tell his younger self, the homeless child who played hooky from school for an entire month and went to junior college only for a warm bed?

“Pick your head up,” Kinlaw said. “Don’t be afraid. People will probably pick on you, ’cause you ain’t got much clothes. You’re wearing the same clothes (every day), but man, something so great is ahead of you. Just keep going.”

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