ATHENS – Solomon Kindley began his Georgia football career by showing he was big, strong, athletic and only causing Kirby Smart a little bit of property damage.
It happened on the lake trip that Smart took Georgia’s freshmen on before last season. Kindley, the 330-pound offensive lineman, was in a tube, getting ready to be driven around. Also in the tube was teammate Julian Rochester and Andrew Smart, the head coach’s son.
The boat revved up, and then …
“Yeah I tore up his tube,” Kindley said. “His little son Andrew was mad at me.”
For those who have never gone tubing, when the boat starts pulling the tube you’re supposed to hold onto the sides. Kindley did that. But all too well.
“The boat started picking up full speed, and I’m trying to hold on even tighter, I grabbed on tighter and tighter and then – pow, it popped,” Kindley said, demonstrating with his hands.
They went flying.
“Flying in the water,” Kindley said.
Everybody ended up fine, especially Kindley, a proficient swimmer and a lifeguard back home in Jacksonville, Fla. He once saved a boy from drowning. It was that dexterity for his size that attracted Smart and assistant coaches, indicating to them there was promise in this overlooked, three-star recruit.
The early indications are good: Kindley, after nearly pushing his way into the lineup last year, got a redshirt and is now the starter at right guard. He started his first game last Saturday, giving the line a very big body on the right side.
“He’s a big boy, I’d definitely say that,” fullback Christian Payne said, smiling. “He does a great job with opening up holes. Especially with me in the game, when I’m trying to get to the linebackers and stuff, he does a great job of clearing the way so I can get through to my guy, and clearing the way for the running backs too.”
Kindley was actually around 360 pounds when he initially committed to Georgia. But once he arrived on campus the staff asked him to drop about 30 pounds. Kindley ran extra laps, the strength staff worked with him, and the nutritionists put him on a diet plan.
Mostly Kindley had to give up sweets.
“The Debbie Cakes and all that type of stuff,” he said, smiling.
When Kindley takes the field this Saturday against Mississippi State, it will be the SEC opener – but it won’t be Kindley’s SEC debut. That came last year, on just one play, and it nearly cost him a season of eligibility.
Kindley went in for just one play at Missouri, the third game of the season, when as a true freshman he was close to cracking the lineup.
“It was my first play, I remember, it was very loud,” Kindley said. “They were very big, so I was like, Oh I’m really here.”
But Kindley didn’t play any more that season. The NCAA ended up granting Kindley a waiver and a redshirt season, citing a back injury.
It took a couple games for Kindley to start this year, an ankle injury slowing him at first. Now he’s in the lineup, with a chance to stick there and solidify a spot that has been in flux.
“I want to get better on my run blocking, but other than that I’m playing pretty good,” Kindley said. “Playing fast and physical.”