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Student Athlete of the Week: Kayvon Thibodeaux
By Amanda Scurlock
Published August 19, 2021

 

Oregon junior defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux had a 3.31 GPA and was the 2020 Pac-12 Championship MVP (Amanda Scurlock/L.A. Sentinel)

Kayvon Thibodeaux developed from a local prep athlete to become one of the most prominent defenders in Pac-12 football. He made an impact as a defensive end for the Oregon Ducks as a freshman, helping the team win the 2019 Pac-12 Championships and 2020 Rose Bowl. That following year, he helped the Ducks run it back for a second consecutive Pac-12 title.

Along with being a reigning Pac-12 champion, Thibodeaux earned the Morris Trophy, an annual honor given to the most outstanding offensive and defensive lineman in the Pac-12.

Growing up, Thibodeaux was always the biggest kid. One of his mentors always told him to maintain an eloquent demeanor. He held onto that advice as he became the top defensive back in the nation during his high school years at Dorsey and Oaks Christian.

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During his freshman year at Oregon, Thibodeaux learned a lesson in humility.

“I had to realize this is a whole different level,” he said. “These guys are adults and I’m coming into a world where I gotta earn their respect and I got to work everyday to get their respect.”

The environment at Oregon helped Thibodeaux hone his skills, which paid off in dividends. He committed nine sacks, breaking the freshman record in the category. He played in all 14 games that season and started in five, accumulating 24 solo tackles. During the 2019 Pac-12 championship game, Thibodeaux made 2.5 sacks for 20 yards.

Pac-12 coaches voted him as the conference Defensive Player of the Year. Ducks football head coach Mario Cristobal believes that Thibodeaux’s best quality is his ability to push himself. This trait carries over to his teammates, according to Cristobal.

“There’s nothing better than when your best players are your best leaders,” he said. “His best football is ahead of him. His best days of leadership, of performance, of all those things that come with this being a student-athlete.”

Thibodeaux is majoring in Journalism/Advertising. His favorite class is an advertising class that he is taking this summer. Creating different advertising campaigns has taught him how to market products to various groups of consumers.

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“I’m learning how to advertise to people, why they want it, who wants it … and what makes it so appealing,” Thibodeaux said. “That’s been really cool just seeing how to target certain demographics.”

With a 3.31 GPA, Thibodeaux earned CoSIDA Academic All District 8 honors during his sophomore year. His athletic effort matched his academic effort as he started in all seven games. His 9.5 tackles for loss is ranked third in the Pac-12 last season.

Thibodeaux led all the defensive linemen of the Pac-12 with 38 tackles and committed 34 quarterback pressures.

His best defensive performance came during their 31-24 victory over the USC Trojans in the Pac-12 Championship. He made 12 quarterback pressures, one sack and 2.0 tackles for loss. Because of his efforts, Thibodeaux was named 2020 Pac-12 Championship MVP.

Since the name, image, and likeness policy has come into effect for NCAA athletes, Thibodeaux has partnered with Nike co-founder Phil Knight and designer Tinker Hatfield to sale artwork. Thibodeaux called it “a piece of memorabilia that captures a moment.”

“It’s a blessing,” he said. “I feel like I was chosen for this and God has really blessed me and blessed my family with the opportunity as well.”

 

 

 

 

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