Local man part of championship team’s coaching staff

By Bart Moss

For the FCT

When Auburn and Florida State battled for the BCS National Championship at the Rose Bowl last week, one of Franklin County’s great athletes was standing on the sidelines.

He wasn’t playing in the game but played a critical behind-the-scenes role for the Florida State Seminoles.

Kurt Kennedy graduated from Red Bay High School in 2005 where he was a standout athlete for the Tigers.  He earned All-State honors two consecutive years – as an athlete his junior year and as a quarterback his senior year. He also won the Mizeman Award, which goes to an athlete in Northwest Alabama who is undersized but excels because of heart and hard work.

Former Red Bay head football coach Dale Jeffreys, now the head football coach at Colbert County High School, said it’s only a matter of time before Kennedy gets his shot as a senior staff member of a college football team.

“Kurt was one of those once-in-a-lifetime players you get who is not only a great athlete but a coach on the field,” Jeffreys said.

“He is a hard worker, he loves the game of football, and he has a great personality. That is why I believe he will be a great college coach some day.”

Kennedy credits Jeffreys for instilling in him the drive to be a successful high school football player.

“I loved playing for Coach [Dale] Jeffreys,” Kennedy said. “He was very demanding and made you work hard. He loved the game and I think that is what has made him successful.

“Players love playing for him because they know he cares about them.”

After graduating from Red Bay, Kennedy wanted to try his skills at college basketball at Freed Hardeman University. He soon realized that football was the sport he loved the most and wanted to pursue at the college level. He transferred to the University of West Alabama where he spent three seasons playing for current UNA head coach Bobby Wallace.

“Coach Wallace instilled in me hard work and how to be a good person,” Kennedy said. “His one rule was, ‘If you have to think about it, it’s wrong.’”

When his playing days were over, Kennedy was ready to pursue his dreams of coaching football. Kennedy landed a position at Florida State where his father, Keith Kennedy, played from 1976 to 1980.  His first job was as a student assistant to coaching legend Bobby Bowden in what turned out to be Bowden’s last year at FSU.

“One of my responsibilities was to spend 15-minutes a day with Coach Bowden and script out the daily practice schedule,” Kennedy said.

“It’s still hard to believe I had that one-on-one time with Coach Bowden. I will cherish that time for the rest of my life.”

As much football time as Kennedy spent with Bowden, it was something far more important that stuck with him.

“My faith,” Kennedy said. “Coach Bowden was a very religious person. He taught me to keep things in perspective, to stay true to my beliefs and be a good person.”

On what would be Bowden’s last practice at Florida State, Kennedy made two copies of the practice script. One obviously went to Bowden; the other Kennedy made for himself and got the coach to sign it for him.

“That is one of my most cherished possessions,” he said. “It’s framed and on the wall.”

When Bowden retired and Jimbo Fisher rose from offensive coordinator to head coach, he offered Kennedy a position that has become common in big time college football programs – offensive quality control.

“I spend most of my waking hours during the season in the film room breaking down opponent’s defensive film,” Kennedy said.

“I look for teams’ strengths and weakness and prepare a report for Coach Fisher, Coach [Rick] Trickett (offensive coordinator) and the rest of the offensive coaching staff.”

While many think working for an elite college football program is glamorous, it is a very demanding job.

“Don’t get me wrong,” Kennedy said. “I love what I do. It’s a great job and I get to meet some great personalities, but it’s a tough job. From early August to January it’s a grind. There are nights I don’t leave the football facility until eleven o’clock at night.”

The entire coaching staff models their behavior after the head man, Jimbo Fisher.

“Coach Fisher is the hardest working man I have ever been around,” Kennedy explained. “He gets to work before the sun rises and doesn’t leave until late at night.”

What was it like reaching the pinnacle of college football – the BCS National Championship Game?

“It was an awesome experience,” Kennedy said. “To be a part of that atmosphere is something I will never forget but I hope to experience more of it in the future.”

With Florida State returning their Heisman-winning quarterback and the bulk of their extremely talented roster, it is likely they will be pre-season ranked as number one, which means the target will be on their back for much of the season.

“We will get everyone’s best game, that’s for sure,” Kennedy said. “That’s the kind of challenge you want if you are a winner.”

What does the future hold for Kennedy?

“I love the college game. I like that it is football all the time. That is what I love,” Kennedy said. “I want to stay in the South. No other part of the country plays the game of football like we do in the South.”

Kennedy has had the good fortune, at such a young age, to be tutored by some great coaches. He has learned some very fundamental but critical lessons from each of those coaches – Jeffreys, Wallace, Bowden, and Fisher.

“They have different ways of going about things, but it’s really all the same,” he said. “It boils down to hard work, self-discipline, being true to yourself and having a strong belief system. I can’t thank them enough. All of them have been very good to me.”

It was evident at the conclusion of the BCS National Championship game when the Seminoles emerged victorious that Kennedy still had a lot of family and friends following his career and rooting for him.

“I just had tremendous support from the community,” Kennedy said.  “During Christmas my whole family dressed in the garnet and gold Florida State colors in support of me. A lot of people have reached out to me through Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. I am truly blessed. I can’t wait to see what the future holds.”

One thing is for sure: this is not the last the sporting world will hear from Kurt Kennedy. With a college career that already includes work with two national championship coaches and being part of one himself, the future for him seems to being going in one direction – up.

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