A full box of Krispy Kreme doughnuts disappeared faster than a person could count to five. Three NCAA Division I athletes straight out of a two-hour practice in 100-plus degree heat would’ve devoured anything put in front of them that fast.
There were plenty of people watching them, as there are most nights Kajikawa practice fields used by the Arizona State football team. Linebackers Khaylan Kearse-Thomas , Merlin Robertson and Darien Butler laughed as each one took a bite of the glazed over treats.
The trio will have a handful of highlights over the course of the 2019 season, but there will be plenty of laughs as well.
“We’re not just together on the field, or just practice,” Robertson said. “Off the field we’re together with each other. We’re a linebacker core, we have to keep that connection.”
Kearse-Thomas joined the conversation late, added an “On God,” to the end. But as he scooted his way into the huddle of his teammates and reporter, the comment was to crack a laugh more than agree with what Robertson had to say. And it worked as chuckles broke out from all.
Butler, labeled the funniest by the other two, pointed back to where it all started.
“It started in the offseason,” he said. “We all got a little closer. We made sure of chemistry was tight. (We) started sitting with each other at meetings, getting into the film room, making sure we’re all getting on the same page when we get out here.”
At practice, you’ll see Butler and company doing certain shenanigans as the video below. After taking out the moving foam ring, Butler added “They was going tempo, I had to slow ‘em down.”
Kearse-Thomas and Robertson said Butler does voices with other things to be labeled as the clown. Before he could fire one off, defensive lineman Jermayne Lole handed them their dozen doughnuts, and amusing Butler got into his comedy role.
With a doughnut in his mouth, Butler’s eyes peered to his left. He changed to a more serious tone and started talking about the incredible job the staff does getting the players in shape. Totally off topic, there was a method beyond his madness. ASU’s Sports Performance Head Coach Joe Connolly watched closely at the consumption of the unhealthy snack. But Butler’s move to being serious even got Connolly, one of the most serious people there is, to crack a smile.
An outside fan could take that the linebackers aren’t taking practice serious all the time, leading to possibly a mishap in game. Although, in the hands of Linebackers Coach Antonio Pierce and Head Coach Herm Edwards, it’s easy for the linebackers to know the balance they can have.
“Coach Antonio Pierce makes our drills fun,” Butler said. “To see him on our team, the character we all have adds more fun to that.”
Pierce makes drills different, but Edwards has changed the vibe completely.
“When he first came in, he told us to be ourselves,” said Kearse-Thomas on Edwards. “That’s helped us tremendously. We have a lot of energy and we feed off of him when the music flips on at practice and he starts dancing.”
The conversation amongst the three was filled with inside jokes. Kearse-Thomas told one of the funniest aspects of Butler was just the way he looked. When special teams takes its session at practice, the linebackers have gone over to catch balls to work on making interceptions. Robertson was certain he had the best hands, Butler argued Robertson was just gifted the biggest hands.
With Butler the funniest, Robertson the best hands, what was Kearse-Thomas’ label? The athlete. The self-proclaimed crown created no fight from the other two as they walked toward the bus with the near empty box in hand.
The three appeared to be able to finish each others sentences. The jokes and the lightness with one another will translate onto the field in their mind.
“Once you have a connection with your guys, you go out and you don’t even have to talk to them,” Kearse-Thomas said. “You could just look at them and know. That type of connection will make us so much better on the field.”
If the three can tear up defenses like they did the doughnuts, there will be a lot of happy Sun Devil funs.