Kayvon Thibodeaux is a soon-to-be millionaire, one of the highest-rated prospects of the 2022 NFL Draft and expected by many to drop no lower than the second pick (if he isn’t taken first overall).
When NFL commissioner Roger Goodell calls Thibodeaux’s name in late April, he will follow it with, “defensive end, Oregon.” Thibodeaux ultimately chose the Ducks despite having no shortage of options or offers. That includes Alabama and Nick Saban.
Thibodeaux — speaking with Fox College Football’s Joel Klatt during the College Football Playoff championship game on Monday — revealed the deciding factor that led him to attend school at Oregon: the “stigmatism” of an Alabama education.
“Do you know the stigmatism of Alabama education?” he asked Klatt. “It ain’t the West Coast.”
Thibodeaux, of course, meant to say “stigma” instead of “stigmatism.” The latter is an incorrect portmanteau of “stigma” and “astigmatism” (a common imperfection in the curvature of the eye).
His comments — used incorrectly as they were — were prompted by Klatt asking what it was like to be recruited by Saban. Thibodeaux said he didn’t like Saban’s recruiting pitch that players want to play when they think they’re ready, as opposed to when Saban thinks they’re ready. That moment, Thibodeaux said, led him to think Alabama wasn’t for him.
Klatt then asked Thibodeaux whether he knew each of Saban’s recruiting classes had won a national championship during their time in Tuscaloosa. Responded Thibodeaux: “And that’s important. Hopefully they’ve all still got jobs and stuff after.”
Thibodeaux continued to explain his decision to attend Oregon, saying he wanted to ensure he could have a career outside of football once his playing days are over. To that end, aligning himself with a brand such as Nike was also important to his future non-football endeavors:
“If I handed you a fishing pole, would you know how to use it? If I’ve never learned (how to fish) or if school has never been important to me, or a job, or a career has never been important until I was done playing football, how would I ever know how to get a career or a job? I won’t.
You know what I sat back and thought about? I sat back and said what world do I want to be a part of? I said if I go to Alabama, I’m going to win national championships, literally. But do I want to be a guy who’s known as a national championship winner or do I want to be a guy who’s known for being a part of the greatest organization in the world?
What people don’t realize is that football is an American sport. So, no matter how great Alabama is, you only play football in America, Canada and a couple other places. But a brand like Nike, I mean, for me it was like what brand associations do I want to be tied to? For me, I already hate the stigmatism of football players being dumb jocks. Do you know the stigmatism of Alabama education? It ain’t the West Coast. It ain’t Harvard.”
Thibodeaux is credited with 123 tackles, 35.5 tackles for loss, 19 sacks, seven passes defensed and three forced fumbles in three years at Oregon.
Below are his comments, in full: