There’s a sound that Minnesota Vikings linebacker Eric Kendricks couldn’t get out of his head. It was easily discernible, unmistakable. It was like a shout-out from the past: The Flowmaster exhaust system attached to the undiscerning but unforgettable 1993 Mustang LX Foxbody.
“It was my dream car when I was 15 and a half,” Kendricks tells En Fuego. “I was about to get my license and I was starting to look for what I wanted to drive. My parents said absolutely not.”
At 15, Kendricks was just getting his footing into the football world, something he excelled at and found a passion for in high school. There is something about the car and the man and who exactly chooses who in that scenario.
The Mustang that rolls into the En Fuego House on a hot day prior to the NFL season is slick, pristine, and undeniably beautiful. It’s missing any of the tricks other ponies might have in the way of flash.
The 30-year-old defensive stalwart admits the car isn’t exactly on every car aficionado’s list of favorite cars. But that doesn’t matter. “It's kind of very understated,” he said. “I love it. It's classic to me.”
Part of the reason is accessibility. As the Vikings star explains, growing up in Fresno you could see these cars rolling down Blackstone. They may not have been ubiquitous, but they made enough cameos in his life to get him thinking that he would jump at the chance of owning one.
That shot came a year ago when he found his dream car with all the necessary accoutrement and none of the baggage. It wasn’t a hatchback or convertible. It was as clean as the day it came off the assembly line and was the rare pristine notchback.
“It was a car that you can get a lot of performance from with not as much cost,” he said. “So, I grew up seeing them driving around my neighborhoods and I always wanted one. And I finally made it happen this past year. I was looking for them for maybe seven, eight years since I got in the NFL, and I finally find the right one.”
It’s one thing to love cars, but for Kendricks this is a passion. The Mustang doesn’t stay long in the garage. It’s out in public, getting hollers from 40-year-olds who appreciate the model as he jokingly says.
But he also pours his sweat into the hobby. Most of what you see in the first episode of “Autobiography” is thanks to careful maintenance and deft renovation by Kendricks and his friend Carter.
“I began working on cars probably two or three years ago in the offseason, and this is actually the first car of my own that I actually put my own hands and effort into it,” he said.
“My buddy helped me with this car. I wouldn’t be able to do without him, obviously. But yeah, I did work on this car myself, got underneath it, struggled putting in the exhaust in, still need to adjust it a little bit, by the way. But it looks good for now.”
The car looks stock by intention. Most of the car is original, save the brakes and suspension, which were the first to get an overhaul. The rims have a classic look but underneath hide bigger brakes designed for a 2004 Cobra Mustang. The suspension is QA1 and tips the kind of car for a driver who is going to put some miles on it.
“I actually really do love driving my cars,” Kendricks said. “I don't just have them sit there. So brakes and obviously handling was like, you know, for me to enjoy this car as much as I want to enjoy it.”
The tour of Kendricks car offers a glimpse of a model that appeared in such iconic films as “Menace II Society.” He walks us around and gives us a play-by-play with childlike enthusiasm. You can tell that the car means a lot to someone who has worked so hard to get where he’s at.
He remembers entering UCLA, as he puts it, as one of the lowest recruits. Playing for the Bruins from 2010-2014, he remembers a stacked level of talent. It put a chip squarely on shoulders that were already used to working hard.
He was the recipient of both the Butkus and Lott trophies in 2014. Entering the NFL the next year, he hit his stride. Kendricks was a member of the All-Rookie Team. The accolades continued with Pro Bowl and All-Pro first-team selections in 2019.
It’s a testament to a work ethic he attributes to one special person. “I mean, I get that mentality I think from my mom,” he said.
“I feel like when times were hard, you know, she was working overtime, she was coming home, cooking dinner, doing what she had to do around the house. And she never complained. She handled her business day in and day out even though when it was hard. I really kind of watched that from afar and kind of obviously I'm in a different profession than my mother, but in the same breath, you know, that work ethic and that drive that she ingrained in me, I can't replace it with anything; it's just, it's just in me.”
En Fuego: What is your dream car?
Eric Kendricks: My dream car will probably be a Ferrari F40 for sure. It's just like I feel when I was drawing cars as a kid in my notebooks in class, that was the kind of car you drew. You know, any kid who draws a car draws a F40, in my opinion.
EF: What’s in your garage right now?
EK: Yeah. I have a 1995 Dodge Viper, which was my grandpa's car. And that's when we talk about me getting into cars, that's really one of the reasons why I got into them as well. You know, my dad always showed me pictures of it. And I knew my grandpa had a Dodge Viper. My grandpa was from Illinois. I was in California. So we never really got to see each other much. But I was in love with cars, so it was a way of me connecting in a way, you know. But now that car is mine. I'm able to take care of it. And. I was able to work on it as well. And I'm kind of restoring it back to, you know, really good condition right now.
EF: What car would you not own?
EK: I would definitely not own a Prius or a PT cruiser, never, or a minivan. I would never do that. But. Yeah. Other than that, I feel like even the weirdest quirkiest cars I can love, like, I can't even explain it. There's some cars that people probably hate and I would love them, but those are my three no's.