March 20th, 2019
UNIVERSITY PARK — Kevin Givens knows his early departure from Penn State surprised many, including his coaches, but he maintains “it was the right time” and is content to follow his heart.
Since announcing for the NFL on Jan. 2, one day after the Citrus Bowl, the Altoona Area High School product has been in Florida training and participated in the Combine in Indianapolis earlier this month.
Tuesday brought Penn State’s Pro Day, the latest chance for Givens to impress onlooking NFL scouts scattered throughout Holuba Hall.
“I think it went pretty well,” a sweating Givens said after going through several speed and agility drills. “I’m just trying to compete and show the scouts what I can do on the field.”
He said past two months have brought “new and challenging experiences,” such as time management since college life is structured.
“Being on your own for the first time is different, but it’s actually fun,” he said. “There’s been a lot of training, a lot of down time, but I can use that to my advantage to recover.”
Sean Spencer, Givens’ position coach, said he initially recommended Givens stay another year. James Franklin and Brent Pry felt the same way.
“Here’s what you have to do with players: You have to give them guidance,” Spencer said. “Kevin wanted to come out. I told him I thought he should come back. However, when he gave me his reasons, I support him 100 percent.”
The 6-foot-1, 283-pound Givens was in good academic standing and said he plans to complete his degree in criminology.
But he still felt he wanted to test the NFL waters.
“I thought a lot about it, and I felt it was time to go to the next level and see what happens,”he said. “I’m still waiting for answers just like everybody else. We’ll find out.”
Givens started three seasons on Penn State’s defensive line, alternating between end and tackle. He hopes his versatility will improve his stock.
“I would think mostly tackle, but I don’t have a preference,” Givens said.
Givens finished the 2018 season with 33 tackles, including 10.5 tackles for loss and 5.0 sacks, and wound up his career with 83 tackles, including 22 for loss and 13.5 sacks.
Givens’ agent, Kaveh Akbari and two other representatives from MBK Management, including president Eugene Lee, were on hand Tuesday.
“We’re getting really good feedback,” Akbari said, declining to name teams. “He’s done everything he could throughout the process. He’ll continue that, and from there, it just takes one team to like him.”
Ex-PSU teammate Chris Godwin referred Givens to MBK. He sought, “Somebody I could trust, somebody who could (help) on and off the field.”
To this point, Givens has been projected as a lower-round pick or a free agent.
He did not run the 40-yard dash Tuesday. He was clocked at 5.09 and 5.08 in Indianapolis — the 5.08 adjusted from a stunning 4.87 that briefly had the NFL Network buzzing.
“I was disappointed (with the adjusted time), but it is what it is,” Givens, who turned 22 on March 1, said. “I was as confused as everybody else. I thought I ran a 4.8. I guess not.”
Akbari said teams use their own stopwatches, and most of them had Givens “in the high 4.9s.”
Givens’ bench press of 32 repetitions with 225 pounds tied for third among 30 defensive tackles in Indy. The effort was also the second-most ever by a PSU player, trailing only A.Q. Shipley’s 33 grunts in 2009.
“I was definitely happy with that,” he said.
Between now and the NFL Draft (April 25-27), Givens will train locally, either at the Sheetz Center at Mansion Park or PSU.
“It’s definitely been grateful having my high school welcome me back with open arms to use the facility,” he said.
Akbari said he’s also working on a private workout for individual teams. Thirty of the 32 were represented Tuesday, including the Steelers with former PSU assistant and interim coach Tom Bradley returning to Happy Valley as a dozen ex-Lions worked out.
Spencer said Givens’ body of work will mean more than the recent testing.
“This is kind of the icing on the cake,” he said. “You’re not getting drafted off your pro day, unless you do a crazy run. It’s a combination of (the season), what he did at the Combine, and what he did today.”
Givens’ father, Kevin Sr., and younger sister Nylah watched Tuesday.
“I’m very proud of my son,” Givens Sr. said. “He’s still got a ways to go, but if he keeps working hard, he’ll be fine. I think he’s buckled down. He’s more serious, working harder, eating better. He’s focused.”