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Saturday, October 13, 2012

Souhegan lineman decides on UNH

Jake Kennedy had never really thought about college football.

The Souhegan High School lineman worked his way into the starting lineup as a sophomore, and by the middle of his junior year, the Sabers coaches were telling him that coaches at the next level were keeping an eye on him. ...

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Jake Kennedy had never really thought about college football.

The Souhegan High School lineman worked his way into the starting lineup as a sophomore, and by the middle of his junior year, the Sabers coaches were telling him that coaches at the next level were keeping an eye on him.

By the time this season, his senior year, started, Kennedy had offers from seven schools – Colgate, Fordham, Holy Cross, Maine, Rhode Island, the University of New Hampshire and the University of Massachusetts . Three other schools, Connecticut, Maryland and Villanova, had also shown interest in the 6-foot-4, 280-pound lineman.

“It was weird,” Kennedy said of the recruiting process. “It was kind of nerve-wracking and it was fun. A lot of emails, a lot of phone calls, a lot of traveling, going to different places. It was a reality check at times. It was a great experience.”

And when it finally came to an end, Kennedy decided the place that felt most comfortable was the one closest to home. Next season, Kennedy will head to UNH.

“The comfort level,” he said. “The coaches made me feel welcome. I love the campus and the distance from home is very welcoming. I want to play football and I want to be on a good team. They are one of the best in the (Colonial Athletic Association). They win football games and that really intrigued me.”

The process of getting Kennedy on the radar of so many college coaches started four years ago. Growing up, Kennedy’s size allowed him to be a lineman, but before he started high school, he got taller and thinned out.

Souhegan coach Mike Beliveau even joked that the coaches could have put Kennedy at quarterback because of his arm. Instead, the coach encouraged Kennedy to work on filling out his frame.

“He bought into the fact that we felt, even though we thought he was a skilled athlete, that if he worked hard, he could be an offensive lineman,” Beliveau said. “His varsity minutes started coming as a sophomore and you could see that this kid could be special.”

Getting that support from his coaches helped convince Kennedy put in the work.

“When they put that trust in me, that made me buy in,” he said. “I started in the weight room when we knew I was going to start as a sophomore. They wanted to beef me up.”

Kennedy did it again this summer, when a couple of the coaches who were recruiting him suggested he get back into the gym. He began working out at Top Fitness at Conway Arena in Nashua, going in almost every morning.

“At the beginning of the summer, I was a little out of shape, and I had some coaches talk to me about that,” Kennedy said. “I got back into shape and it showed. I couldn’t move as well as I do now. The weight that I shed was bad weight and the weight I hope to put on is going to be good weight.”

For Beliveau, its the third player he’s had go on to play Division I football – Rich Lapham (Boston College) and Sean Jellison (UNH), both of whom graduated in 2006.

“It’s not often that players in New Hampshire get multiple scholarship offers, and certainly not often that players at Souhegan do,” Beliveau said. “It was really exciting and ended up being really rewarding. It was a team effort between his parents, and I, and himself, and Drew Zell, who did a lot of the kids’ highlight videos. It takes emails and getting clips out there and going to camps. It’s a long process, but in the end rewarding.”

There was no feeling of relief for Kennedy, just the satisfaction at knowing he’d made the right decision.

“It felt good once I said it and got it over with,” he said. “The first thing I thought of was that my parents don’t have to pay for school, and that’s going to make things a lot easier. It will help me get used to the school because I’ll be there before everyone, and there will be guys on the team that I know. I don’t have to worry about where I’m going. I’m very fortunate and very lucky to be where I am.”