When Javon Kinlaw arrived at Jones County Junior College, he had a backup plan. That’s the first thing Anthony Maddox wanted to fix.
Maddox is a five-year NFL veteran now in his eighth season as the defensive line coach at JCJC. What bothered him the most when Kinlaw arrived at his Ellisville, Miss., school last year was that the defensive lineman kept talking about what he was going to do if football didn’t work out. To Maddox, it sounded like Kinlaw was making plans for WHEN football didn’t work out.
“He felt like if it didn’t work he could go do sheetrock,” Maddox said. “He said, ‘I can always go home and do sheetrock.’ I’m thinking, ‘Son, that’s the last thing you want to be doing unless you own a sheetrock company.’ ”
While Maddox started working to reshape Kinlaw’s game on the field, two of Jones County’s academic advisors – Carla Collins and Jennifer Griffith – began to work on reshaping his mindset off the field. The change was dramatic, Maddox said.
“He saw the picture that there are bigger things out there in life,” Maddox said. “Javon is one of the fastest-progressing guys mentally and maturity-wise that I have had in a long time. He processed a whole lot of information in a year, and he started living by that information.”
Kinlaw’s progress has continued at South Carolina. He arrived three months ago as an overweight project on the defensive line and has made key contributions to the Gamecocks’ 2-0 start. South Carolina (2-0, 1-0 SEC) plays Kentucky at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Williams-Brice Stadium.
“He’s an agile big man, he can move his feet, he can press the pocket, he can hold the point in the run game,” South Carolina coach Will Muschamp said. “I’ve been extremely pleased with his progress.”
Kinlaw, a 6-foot-6, 309-pound sophomore, has one tackle in two games, but he’s made a big impact in other ways while backing up Taylor Stallworth and Ulric Jones. Against Missouri last week, he batted two passes at the line of scrimmage and blocked a Tigers field goal attempt.
Kinlaw’s production has gone up as his weight has gone down, and that’s no coincidence. While most of the things he picked up at Jones were beneficial, the 65 pounds he gained there were not. He arrived at South Carolina weighing 340 pounds after originally signing with the team – in 2016, when he didn’t earn academic eligibility – weighing 275.
“When I first came, I didn’t have any confidence because I was fat and chubby,” he said. “I felt like I couldn’t play well. Now, since I’ve been getting back to my junior college weight, my confidence has been going up a lot more.”
He has dropped 31 pounds thanks to a strict diet overseen by director of football nutrition Kristin Coggin.
“I used to get mad because she didn’t let me eat a lot like I wanted to,” Kinlaw said. “I just have to eat less, eat half of everything. I had to deal with it. I know what I want to do, and I know where I want to go. In order to do that, I just sucked it up and took whatever I got.”
Kinlaw believes his ideal playing weight is 295 pounds, he said.
“Moving forward (he needs to) continue to be more consistent in his performance and continuing to get his weight down a little bit. He knows that,” Muschamp said. “Javon’s extremely bright. He’s a guy that really is articulate and understands the things he needs to do. The better he gets, the better defense that we can have.”
Kinlaw landing at Jones was a stroke of good fortune, he said. Muschamp came to Goose Creek High and presented him with the plan – enroll at Jones, get eligible, play one season and come back to South Carolina.
“I didn’t have anything else going on,” Kinlaw said. “At the time, me and my dad were going through some things, we were fixing to be, probably, homeless that week so that was the best place for me to go. I didn’t know anything about junior college, really, until coach Muschamp told me the plan. I went down there and that first week it was rough, but I just told myself, ‘Where else would you be right now?’ ”
Kinlaw immediately felt like he could trust Maddox, he said, and the two quickly grew close. Now, Maddox believes Kinlaw will be a first-round NFL Draft pick when he leaves the Gamecocks.
“Javon has a lot of potential,” Maddox said. “He’s a big guy who is very athletic that can run. It’s hard to find big guys who can run and move like that. Once he makes his mind up 100 percent, I don’t think there is anybody out there who can stop him.”
When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: Williams-Brice Stadium
TV: SEC Network
Radio: 107.5 FM
Line: USC by 6