In his rookie season, he led the team with four forced fumbles. He has an interception return for a touchdown in each of his first two years, and leads the team in sacks over that span.
Despite playing 2012 without
For Kerrigan, his regular season success begins in the offseason, when he diligently hits the weight room to add more power and explosion to his pass rush.
“It’s been since high school that strength training has been a big influence for me,” he told Health & Wellness magazine. “You could see the guys that were doing the most work in the weight room were able to be that much better on the football field because they were simply stronger.”
Kerrigan took his work ethic to Purdue, where he tied the NCAA forced fumble record (14) and was named a unanimous First-Team All-American his senior year.
After spending the majority of his playing days in a three-point stance on the defensive line, he knew he would likely move to upright outside linebacker at the NFL level. In order to make the transition easier, he knew he had to adjust his workouts.
“I had to get more flexible in my hips and that was my main point of emphasis going into the Combine and during pre-Combine workouts,” he said. “I wanted to show teams that I could move fluidly in space. It’s still a thing for me to [focus on] that, because you can never be too flexible or strong.”
While his move to outside linebacker seemed effortless during his rookie campaign, racking up 63 tackles and 7.5 sacks, he wanted to improve his performance and focused on getting a stronger core.
“I really see it paying off, not only on the football field but in the weight room as well,” he said. “If you have a strong torso and midsection, that will allow you to push more weight in your other lifts. But also on the football field, it allows me to have better balance and better control of my body.”
The key to success in rushing the quarterback usually boils down to getting the right angle on the offensive tackle and leveraging away from him.
“The angles that we have to put our bodies in in order to pass rush, you’ve got to be able to get low and get around the corner,” he explained. “If you’re not strong in your core, it’s easy to get knocked off and offensive tackles can just push you.
“It’s really key to have that core strength so you can resist that push from the offensive tackle when you’re putting your body in an extreme angle.”
Going into his third season in the NFL, Kerrigan has focused his workouts on building lower body strength.
“This offseason has been a big leg focus for me. I really want to improve my leg strength so a lot of squats [and] a lot of single leg [isolation] to really emphasize being able to explode off of one leg,” he said. “I just want to make sure I have a good anchor at the bottom.”
Like anyone looking to get back in shape, Kerrigan said he breaks in slowly with lighter weights and higher repetitions. “But,” he said, “then once you get going into it, it turns into more big weight but not as many reps.”
“My advice to anyone would be to start slow, especially if you haven’t done it in a while or haven’t ever done it,” he said. “Just start slow and gradually build, because you’re going to be sore when you first start doing it no matter how often you weight train.
“Start with maybe only one or two days a week for a couple of weeks and then slowly build your way up.”
Another key to working out is finding a partner or group for motivation and support. Kerrigan spends the offseason working out with
“You can kind of see what other guys are doing and that motivates you a little bit to do a little more,” Kerrigan stated. “I get more out of working out in groups.”
The group tailors the workout routines to the muscle group being spotlighted that day. One segment of his workouts that will never be left out, however, is stretching.
“It’s huge for anyone because you’ve got to stay limber [and] flexible,” Kerrigan said. “That’ll help prevent injuries, but it will also help to put your body in the right positions when you are on the field.”
“It [also] really helps in recovering after a workout. Your muscles are tired, so stretching them out and loosening them back up is good for you.”