A 2010 unanimous NCAA All-American who received the Purdue football team's Most Valuable Player Award for defense, it was little surprise that the NFL's Washington Redskins pounced on the defensive end with the 16th overall pick in the 2011 draft.
But as it goes with all transitions from college to the pros, it's hard to predict if college excellence will translate to the next level. But his early transition has been more successful than most could have imagined. In his pro debut against the Giants, Kerrigan picked off Eli Manning and scored a touchdown. He was also named NFL Defensive Rookie of the Month, leading to speculation he'll be in the running for Rookie of the Year honors.
We recently caught up with Kerrigan to discuss his transition
What’s been the hardest part about your transition into the NFL?
Kerrigan: For me personally I’ve had to play a different position, so that’s obviously the biggest adjustment. But in terms of coming to the NFL in general it’s the level of play and speed of the game are the two biggest adjustments. But you go against a guy who’s really a phenomenal player at every position and the speed of the game at which they play is so much greater than college.
What have you had to do to adjust your level of play?
Kerrigan: I just have got to keep practicing. The more I do it the better I feel at playing the linebacker position and playing against guys at this level. So the more reps I get the better I play.
When you were recognized as the NFL Defensive Player of the Week, did it tell you that you’re doing the right things to progress?
Kerrigan: I think so but at the same time I’m thinking about the plays I didn’t make, the plays I could’ve made. And I use that as motivation to get better every day.
Is there a particular lineman who’s been impressive and tough to beat?
Kerrigan: I thought Tyron Smith from Dallas was a pretty good player, especially for being a rookie. He was really strong, really quick, and had good form. I was really impressed with him.
Anything you wish you could’ve done differently since you started your career?
Kerrigan: Not in particular. The whole process was crazy with the lockout and all. It will be nice next year when we have the full offseason to practice with my teammates and get better.
Do you feel like the lockout hurt you?
Kerrigan: I don’t feel like it because this is all I know thus far. It will be different next year – kind of weird – when we have an offseason. It hurt everybody. We’re all at a level playing field because it hurt us all.
This interview was facilitated with the assistance of Brian Tinsman who works in the front office for the Washington Redskins and owner Dan Snyder as the team’s associated writer and chief team blogger.