Chris Kuper is one of the best ever to play on the offensive line at North Dakota. He was named to the All-North Central Conference Squad in 2004 and 2005 and was Most Valuable Offensive Lineman in the conference both years as well. Kuper received All-American honors in 2004 and was a unanimous pick in 2005.
Kuper put together a 38 game-starting streak during his collegiate career, a level of durability and reliability that gets noticed by NFL scouts. And he has the versatility that's a must these days in the NFL as a rookie, starting at right guard his sophomore year, but making the switch to play all 13 games at left tackle during his senior year.
Kuper spoke to ColtPower's Ed Thompson about his career at North Dakota and the bright future that awaits him in the NFL.
Question: Walk us through your career at North Dakota. It started out at right guard, but finished up with 13 starts your senior year at left tackle due to injuries on the line, right?
Chris Kuper: I came in as a freshman playing guard and ended up redshirting my first year. I was a pretty big kid, 6-foot-4, maybe 315. I played at about 275 in high school, so I came in a little soft, obviously didn't know the offense. So that year was a bit tough for me because I had been in a starter's role or at least playing throughout my career. Then I came in with a bunch of seniors in front of me, and I had to learn the offense better. But I started to get into the rotation towards the end of the year. In my sophomore year I came into the spring as a starter. We had predominantly seniors on the offensive line except for me and it was one of our best years as a team while I was there. We ended up going to the national championship even though we lost there 10-3. My junior year I came in as a preseason All-American at guard. I was getting bigger and stronger. My junior year was really my coming out year as far as getting noticed by the NFL. I had a really solid year and was named Most Valuable Lineman in my conference and made First-Team All-Conference and First-Team All-American. Coming into my senior year I thought I was playing guard, but after a couple of injuries to our line, I ended up at left tackle. The first couple of games were an adjustment, but then I just started playing my old game out there … And now I'm here.
Q: What are you hearing from NFL scouts about where you project the best at the pro level, tackle or guard?
CK: The majority are looking at me at guard. There's been maybe three teams that have talked to me about playing tackle. I could come in as a swing guy either way. The best thing I think I could do is come in as a guard, learn the offense, get a feel for the competition level, and then swing out when needed.
Q: Do you remember which three teams are talking to you about tackle?
CK: Jacksonville likes me as a tackle. The Jets talked to me about tackle, and I think Houston talked to me about being a swing guy, but mainly at guard.
Q: Who are you hearing from who is interested in you at guard?
CK: Over the past couple of months I've talked to almost every team. I've gotten a lot of calls for tape from my junior year when I was playing guard.
Q: As you've been interacting with NFL coaches and general managers, what is it that you've been trying to stress to them about you as a person?
CK: I don't know how easy it is to express to someone in words that you're going to be a hard worker. But that's what I try to get across to them. I'm not going to be happy to be the guy that gets drafted and then have that money and be satisfied. I'm going to push myself and whoever's in front of me to get into that starting role. That's my main goal for my rookie year is to get in there and get a taste of it – and then go from there.
Another thing is that sometimes I'm a quiet guy and people take that for low self-confidence. I've worked on that quite a bit, because I don't think that's an issue at all. It's just that I've always been a humble person.
Q: You were just one of the two players from the Division II ranks in the Shrine Game. How much has that helped you in this draft process?
CK: The way I interpret it is that I didn't have a great first day on one-on-ones. But what I've heard from everyone is that I made that natural progression throughout the week. It didn't look like the game was overwhelming me. As the week progressed, I caught up. There were good players in Division II, but I had to adjust to some of the higher talent level at that game. It was good for me because it proved to me that I can make that jump and it's not a huge learning curve as I think it would be for some other Division II players.
Q: You're also considered one of the best trap blockers in the collegiate ranks. What is it about your technique that helped you earn that recognition?
CK: When I pull out, my main goal is to put the guy on his butt. That's one thing I take pride in. Offensive linemen don't get praised for many things, but that's something you can see in the film room. And I think I have good hip explosion.
Q: What are your top traits as an offensive lineman?
CK: My dad tells me I play offensive line kind of like a linebacker would. I'm relentless and my athleticism lets me do a lot of things you don't see in many offensive linemen.