Many schools vied for Jack Kennedy’s football talents. But at the end of the day, family ties won out.
Kennedy accepted a preferred walk-on offer from Northwestern University over the weekend, following in the footsteps of his uncle.
Nearly from birth, Kennedy has been raised to be a fan of the Northwestern Wildcats. As a kid, Kennedy traveled to Chicago on numerous occasions to watch Northwestern, falling in love with the school.
Jack grew up hearing stories from his uncle, Tim Kennedy ’90. A stellar member of the defense for the Wildcats on the 1988 and 1989 State Championship teams, Tim Kennedy will be forever remembered for his clutch kickoff return for a touchdown to turn the tides against Euclid in a 31-30 playoff thriller in 1989. Kennedy headed to Northwestern after his time at Saint Ignatius, playing football for a year before an unfortunate injury prematurely ended his promising college football career.
In part because of his uncle, Jack Kennedy always dreamed of attending Northwestern.
“I grew up going to quite a few games,” Jack said. “As a kid, I didn’t think I would play there, but I’ve always had an aspiration of going there and playing. I never thought I’d get to that point, but here I am.”
Jack’s path to Northwestern took a nomadic path. Kennedy had always aspired to play football for Saint Ignatius, starting his career as a playmaker on the freshman team. Kennedy played all 10 games during the 2015 season, enjoying every minute.
Kennedy played some of his sophomore season, before the injury bug first bit him. Kennedy suffered a separated shoulder, and missed about half of the season due to the affliction.
Heading into his junior year, Kennedy felt healthy and happy. Head Coach Chuck Kyle ’69 viewed Kennedy as a utility player with a promising future, perhaps at running back. Then, injury struck again.
“In the last scrimmage against Canton McKinley, he was having a great scrimmage. He was making plays all over the place,” Kyle said. “Then he got tackled in an unnecessary way. He was going down, and the kid hit him in the helmet. It cracked his collarbone. Six days later, we’re playing a game, so it was horrible timing. He lost all of his junior year. Recruiters were going, ‘There’s no junior film other than a couple scrimmage things.’ That was a little frustrating.”
Kennedy watched the entire 2017 season from the sidelines. Kennedy supported his teammates in every way he could, but longed to be on the field.
In the spring of 2018, Kennedy made an impact with the track & field team. Kennedy and the 4x100 relay team (consisting of Jack, Connor Kennedy ’18, Phil Zuccaro ’18, and Dominic DeVengencie ’20) roared to fifth at the State Meet in a closely-contested heat.
In the summer, Kennedy worked hard to get stronger and stay healthy. As the season approached, Kennedy looked good to go, and the coaching staff decided to set him at wideout and cornerback.
“We needed him at corner and at wide receiver. He played running back for one play this year, and he scored a touchdown,” Coach Kyle said. “He could do that, too, but your running back is not on the field as much. You need to rotate others in. As for a WR/DB, you’re going to be in the game 60-80 plays. We needed Jack Kennedy in the game out there for 60-80 plays.”
Kennedy indeed filled a gap and played as much as his coaches asked him to. Kennedy enjoyed an incredible senior season as a remarkable two-way player.
Kennedy finished the 2018 season with 20 catches for 396 yards and 5 touchdowns on offense, adding a rushing TD vs. St. Edward. On defense, Kennedy recorded 9 tackles, 4 pass breakups, 2 interceptions, and 1 forced fumble.
“You look at his senior film, and he made plays on offense and defense. He pulled away from people,” Kyle said. “He would catch a pass and you would look at the film and say, ‘Wow! He just pulls away.’ It was necessary for the team that he stay healthy.”
Kennedy did stay healthy all season, playing in each of the 11 games. Kennedy is very proud of that fact.
“Looking back on it, I’m really proud of how I finished,” Kennedy said. “Despite not getting a state championship with all of my teammates, getting to play all 11 games with them was really special to me. It was also special to my parents because they saw what I went through mentally in trying to get my confidence back and help out my teammates. My teammates built my confidence back up, along with several coaches like Coach KJ [Kevin Johnson] and Coach [Jack] Hyland. They all helped me improve. I got my confidence back and had a really fun senior year.”
Kennedy’s recruitment began early in his senior season, despite the fact that he didn’t have any junior film.
But Kennedy decided to postpone thinking about it until after the season.
“Before the season, I was thinking about college. Then we lost the first two games, and I thought, ‘I shouldn’t even be thinking about this.’ So I told my dad I didn’t want to talk to any colleges, I wanted to focus on the rest of the season,” Kennedy said. “Once the season ended a little shorter than expected, I went down to Coach Kyle’s office and talked with him. He recommended the Ivy Leagues, the Patriot Leagues, and a few Division II schools. I told him I would be interested in walking on at Northwestern. He thought I was capable of doing it, so he reached out to the recruiting coordinator and put me in touch with the player personnel coordinator. I started texting him, we set up a visit, and here I am.”
Besides Northwestern, Kennedy was interested by several other schools. Cornell and Dartmouth were also options.
But once Kennedy visited Northwestern, he was sold.
“I visited Northwestern in the first week of December on an unofficial visit. The campus is beautiful,” Kennedy said. “Both of my choices were good schools, so I was fine with the education at both. One of the things that made it an easy choice was Northwestern’s new football facility. It’s right on the lake. It’s an indoor football field, offices, a weight room, study halls, and a cafeteria for the athletes, across all programs. It blew me away, I was really impressed.”
Kennedy plans to study economics at the respected Chicago school. Kennedy then hopes to attend the prestigious Kellogg School of Business for his MBA. If Kennedy keeps up his hard work – he currently owns a 3.93 GPA at Saint Ignatius – he’ll have a strong shot at getting his two degrees.
But before heading off to college, Kennedy wants to finish off the year strong.
Kennedy will be an integral part of the 4x100 relay team, among other events. The indoor season starts on Saturday, and Kennedy is excited for the season, particularly the District and State Meets.
“When it gets to the end of the year, when you’re done with Finals and you get to the District Meet, it gets to be a lot of fun,” Kennedy said. “There’s nothing like running in the State Meet. It’s quite an experience. I’m really looking forward to the track season and finishing out my Ignatius career on a great note.”