It's a big day for Eric Kendricks.
After all, how often does an All-Pro linebacker celebrate his 7th birthday?
Well, OK. He's actually turning 28 … right?
Kendricks was born on Leap Day in 1992, meaning that his official birthday only comes around every four years. It seems like a bummer – especially as a youngster – that the calendar typically leapfrogs your birthday, but Kendricks says he actually enjoyed the uniqueness of it growing up.
"Honestly, the way that my mom made me feel, and people around me, they made it feel a little bit more special," Kendricks told Vikings.com. "Obviously it was kind of weird on the off years when I was young, that I didn't really have an identified birthday. But then again … if it was Feb. 28 or March 1 or whatever, that whole week, people told me 'happy birthday.' So, I feel like people remembered my birthday more often."
View the top photos of Vikings LB Eric Kendricks from the 2019 season.
He, of course, celebrated his birthday in years without a Feb. 29; but every four years, the parties were especially a big deal.
Kendricks recalled one year in particular – "It was probably when I was '2 or 3,' so 8 or 12" – when his mom threw an extravagant build-your-own pizza party for him and his friends in their hometown of Fresno, California.
"We had the toppings and the dough and stuff like that, and I thought it was really cool," Kendricks said.
"I always try to do something a little bit bigger on my Leap Year," he added.
And as for this year? The Vikings linebacker will recreate that memorable childhood bash with friends and family.
"We're going to have a little dinner party, and everybody's going to be involved with cooking their own meal," he explained. "It's going to be kind of a throwback to my birthday party when I was younger, but a more adult version."
In February 2016, following his rookie season with the Vikings, Kendricks celebrated his "sixth" birthday.
"We went to Vegas and had a big thing. I wanted to do something big again [this year] but not as hectic," Kendricks said. "I'm growing up, I guess. Seven years old."
Ever wonder exactly why Leap Years exist?
While the calendar year spans 365 days, it actually takes the earth 365 and one-fourth days to complete its orbit around the sun. Adding an extra day – Feb. 29 – to the calendar every four years accounts for the extra one-fourths.
Kendricks recalled learning the explanation during science classes and enjoying the lecture a little more than his classmates.
"I always felt special," he said. "Because I am the one-fourth that's compiled on that day."
The chances of being born on Leap Day are just one in 1,500.
According to Pro Football Reference, Kendricks is the only current NFL player to have a Feb. 29 birthday. Only 18 are listed all-time, and the most recent prior to Kendricks was tackle Dante Ellington, who played two games for the Cardinals in 2005.
One current MLB player (Diamondbacks pitcher Stefan Crichton) was born on Feb. 29; no current NBA or NHL players are Leap Day babies.
"But actually, at my high school there were three of us who shared the same birthday. Two of us were in the same class, and one was a year younger," Kendricks said. "That's really rare. That's the biggest concentration I've ever been around."
Being that, as a professional athlete, Kendricks' bio info is regularly available via a quick Google search, I asked the linebacker if he gets asked much about the unique birthdate.
"It's usually when someone checks my ID or when I need to prove my identification at an airport or something," he said. "Or if I'm at a doctor's office and put my date of birth. People don't believe it's real. They're like, 'No, shut up.' But I'm like, 'No, for real. It's really on the 29th.' "
For legal purposes, some states' drivers' licenses do not officially recognize Feb. 29 but instead list Feb. 28 or March 1 as the individual's birthdate. Kendricks' license has his actual birthday, and he admits that it has complicated things over the years.
In college, he accompanied friends to a California club to celebrate his 21st birthday; they arrived at 11 p.m. on Feb. 28.
"I was pleading my case. 'Listen, I am 21 years old. My birthday's on Leap Year. My birthday's in an hour. Can you just let me in? And really, in an hour it will be the 1st.' " Kendricks recounted with a laugh. "They were just looking at me, like, 'What?' It was pretty funny."
He later added: "Honestly, I love the birthday because it gives me more of an excuse to act childish and just be youthful forever."
So, does the unique birthday make Kendricks the youngest player in Minnesota's locker room – a title last season believed to belong to 21-year-old Irv Smith, Jr.?
"I assume so," he deadpanned. "I feel like I'm really just the youngest one doing it in the NFL, period."
And as he prepares to celebrate over a build-your-own-dinner party tonight with friends and family, Kendricks offered one last shout-out from the heart:
"To all the 7-year-olds out there, just know that anything is possible. You just have to put your mind to it and go grind.
"People said that I wouldn't be able to do this by 7 years old, but look where I'm at," he added. "Go ahead and go for it."