Kenoy Kennedy would rather hit you than talk. That explains why his trip to the Northwest Arkansas Touchdown Club was his first attempt at public speaking.
“I’ve never done anything close to this,” Kennedy said after Wednesday’s luncheon at the Holiday Inn Convention Center in Springdale. “It kind of is in my makeup not to want to get up like this in front of a group.
“You’d have to know my mom and dad to understand. My mom is real shy. If my dad found out people were going to be somewhere, he’d just not show up. I probably have a lot of both of them in me.”
Kennedy did well, thanks to some help from TD club board member Marvin Caston, one of Kennedy’s teammates at Arkansas. Caston had questions for Kennedy, then turned the mike over to Kennedy to take more from the crowd.
It was Caston’s invitation that got Kennedy to the meeting. It was a similar call from Caston, representing the Razorback Foundation, that has put him back in the stadium on game day.
“Marvin called me and asked if I would donate to the foundation,” Kennedy said. “I wanted to do that and I am a season’s ticket holder now. I’ve been to games the last two years. I’ll be here Saturday to see us play Auburn. I love it.
“I don’t miss playing at all. People ask me if I miss the roar of the crowd, the band playing and running onto the field for the games. I don’t. But I do miss seeing guys like Marvin Caston, Spencer Brown and Hubert Loudermilk and the guys.”
Brown, Caston and Loudermilk were among the former Razorbacks at the luncheon. There were pictures taken afterwards. They may end up Kennedy’s special addition at his home in the Dallas area. The Terrell, Texas native had to build a detached garage that was converted into a “boom-boom room” at the urging of his wife.
“I’d have my buddies come over and it got pretty loud and she had enough of it,” Kennedy said. “So I just built this place for all my stuff ... the pool table, the poker table and a place we could hang out. You should see it. It’s all things Razorbacks in there.”
All things Razorback?
“Well there is a specially made pool table that has a big Razorback in the middle of the cloth,” Kennedy said. “A big Razorback. And the poker table is made of that fast cloth that makes the cards slide all the way across -- over a big Razorback in the middle. I’ve got all my Razorback stuff in it.”
Kennedy is all Razorback. He played eight years in the NFL with Denver and Detroit, but it’s his time with the Razorbacks that provide the top memory.
“My favorite all-time memory is our victory over Tennessee here in 1998,” he said. “That’s considering all levels -- high school, college and pro. There’s nothing really close to that. It’s what I think about.
“You think of all that had happened and what that game meant and to play it at home. The celebration after the game was pretty neat. I remember that above all the football games I ever played.”
What most remember Kennedy for are the hits. Soon after he signed with the Hogs, UA assistant Jim Washburn invited me to his office to watch a video of a Kennedy hit. Kennedy, playing corner, had a running start at a back on a sweep. Helmet went one way, the poor back went the other.
“It scared me,” Kennedy told the luncheon crowd. “I thought I had killed him. It was gruesome. The crowd went silent and our team was excited. His helmet went left out of bounds, a piece of the padding came out of the helmet the other way and his mouthpiece went up. He was knocked out Indian style and just fell out.”
That wasn’t an accident. He knocked out a Kentucky tight end.
“That guy was calling for the trainer as soon as he hit the ground,” Kennedy said. “He was talking through the helmet ear hole.”
And there were grisly hits in the NFL. One of them produced the rule that prevents leading with the helmet after a crushing blow in a game against Miami.
“The one on Chris Chambers, I think I got fined,” he said. “No, I know I got fined for being too rough. It was like a Gladiator thing. But I’m not a big fan of knocking someone out.”
Kennedy approved of the rule.
“I’m for it,” he said. “There is life after football. But I will say it’s a fine line out there. You have a 215-pound guy who runs 4.5 trying to knock the ball away from a 200-pounder who runs 4.3. It’s hard to judge where to put your head. It’s bang, bang.”
How has his body held up from all of those tough hits?
"I just had a physical and I have a few things," he said. "There's a pinched nerve in my neck. There is a slipped disc in my lower back. I have carpal tunnel syndrome in one hand. I have a problem with one heel.
"I'm not complaining. I'm tough and most of it is stuff I can handle right now. But there is life after football. You want to enjoy it and so far I've enjoyed it."
The family is doing great. There's two sons: Ky, 6, and Tyce, 3.
"They are little pigs right now," he said. "They aren't Hogs just yet."
Will they be Razorbacks?
"The oldest is playing soccer right now," he said. "If he wants to play football, I'll help. But I will handle it just like my dad. I won't push him. My dad played football and never pushed me. It worked out fine."
Kennedy didn't think he would be a pro football player until that hit knocked off the helmet in high school.
"I never thought about the NFL until then," he said. "But about then I started thinking I might be pretty good at this. It worked out."
It was a knockout.