After a year away from football, defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche is eager to make his return to the NFL once again. After signing with the Seahawks this offseason, the NFL veteran has a second chance to prove himself, making this season personal for him.
"Just wake up every day and you just keep growing, and you keep your mentality," Nkemdiche said. "You just always know there's a new level and you're never there. So, you always know what's next, what's next. You start to crave what's next. I did this good, so what's next? What do I have to do if I want to dominate?"
Drafted by the Cardinals in 2016, Nkemdiche played sparingly in his first two seasons, and appeared to be headed towards a breakout year before suffering a season ending ACL injury. In 2019, the defensive tackle signed with the Dolphins, playing two games, only to be waived later that season. Nkemdiche remained unsigned in the 2020 season. The year off from football impacted his mindset on "maturing" and prompted him to focus more on the game,
"I just feel like I had to mature a little bit. I had to mature, and I had to become a student of the game," Nkemdiche said. "I really had to become a student and it's a lot different. Just really studying the game, that's really all it is."
However, after injuries, waivers, and a suspension Nkemdiche has a new perspective of what it means to be back playing the game of football, something he loves and is visibly passionate about.
"I just have a clear mind and a clear focus," Nkemdiche said. "In this league to have a chance to be successful, you have to have a clear mind, and you have to focus, and you have to know exactly what you're doing. And you have to fall in love with what you're doing and find a way to elevate and learn. I'm at that place but I'm not there yet. I'm still getting there but it's just about having that mentality is just what I'm excited about. It's all about that approach."
Nkemdiche's liveliness and devotion to the game is felt throughout training camp by players and head coach Pete Carroll, noting that Nkemdiche's spirit is welcomed here with the Seahawks.
"He's a beautiful spirit now. He really cares about having fun and enjoying it. I can't imagine someone putting a lid on him back in the day. Maybe that's why some of the stories came out," Carroll said. "Here we welcome the spirit of it and what he brings, and everyone has to get along and fit in and all that. He does too. I don't want to harness that kind of love for being outgoing, and expressive and all that. I don't want to get in the way of all that. I'm going to cheerlead for that."
With the help of his teammates and coaches, Nkemdiche plans to become a better player on and off the field, meeting the standard of what is expected as players and finding his own groove.
"There's a standard being with Bobby (Wagner), being with Jamal (Adams), with Quandre (Diggs), being with all of those guys. There's a certain standard, and you have to play up to that standard and all of a sudden you find your own formula that works for you and so, it goes from there," said Nkemdiche.
It seems this time everything has aligned for a healthy Nkemdiche to potentially have the best season of his career. With a new location, solid teammates, and a supportive coach, Nkemdiche indeed has the recipe to reach a new level.
Photos from Seahawks Training Camp practice, held on Saturday, July 31 at Renton's Virginia Mason Athletic Center. Seahawks Training Camp is presented by Safeway.