ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Linebacker Kevin Minter needed just three seasons of playing time at LSU to prove his worth to NFL teams.
But that didn't make his decision to forgo his senior season any easier.
"I'll be honest with you -- it's hard to leave that purple and gold," Minter said at the NFL Scouting Combine. "I love Baton Rouge and I love the fans. It was a hard decision but it was a decision I had to make for me and my family."
After graduating from high school early, Minter enrolled at LSU in January, 2009, participating in spring practice before being redshirted as a freshman.
His climb to the starting lineup began the following year, when he saw action in 11 games, but totaled just 15 tackles. Still, he was already one of the strongest players on the team, squatting a team-best 545 pounds as a redshirt freshman.
His career picked up steam as a sophomore, when he stepped into the team's starting middle linebacker position after Kelvin Sheppard was drafted by the Buffalo Bills. Minter ranked fifth on the team in total tackles, and his first career sack came in the BCS National Championship Game against Alabama.
"He brought me along," Minter said of Sheppard. "He taught me how to study film, a lot about playing the game, just having confidence. From the beginning he always told me I had the tangibles -- my speed, my power, my strength, all that quickness. I always had that. It was just having the confidence to go out there and play the position. That's what I was lacking. He told me once I got that, the sky's the limit."
Last season, Minter's ability was finally on full display. He started all 13 games at middle linebacker, earning first-team All-America honors after a season in which he posted 130 tackles -- fourth-highest in a single season in LSU history -- 15 tackles for loss, four sacks, an interception and a forced fumble. The All-SEC first-team player was also a finalist for the Butkus Award and took home the Charles McClendon Award as his team's MVP.
"I had a great season, I'm not going to lie," Minter said. "It's just a dream come true to be considered one of the top in the country. It's big."
Now, Minter is excited to follow his former teammate Sheppard, who started 15 games for the Bills in 2012, into the NFL.
He said he feels comfortable in both 3-4 and 4-3 defensive schemes, and believes his college tape shows he can be a three-down linebacker at the next level.
"I'm one of those tough guys -- pretty intense when I'm on the field," he said. "I'm passionate about what I do. I feel like I play the game they way it's meant to be played. I get into it. I enjoy the game. You can tell when I'm out there playing."
As for why he left LSU, it ultimately came down to his family.
"I'm tired of momma working," he said. "She's almost 70 -- it's time for her to stop. To be honest with you, it was time."
And Minter believes he's ready tobring his leadership and knowledge of the game to an NFL franchise.
"I can contribute a lot to an organization."