Special for The Republic
May. 31, 2005 12:00 AM
[font=arial,helvetica,sans-serif]Derek Kennard Jr. sat next to the family pool and had a long talk with his dad.
"Not only about football, but for life," Derek Kennard Sr. said of the chat. "He still has a deep desire and fire to play the game. With any luck (and) perseverance, he's going to make it to the NFL."
The perseverance certainly appears to be there.[/font]
[font=arial,helvetica,sans-serif]Kennard Jr., a former Desert Vista High lineman, signed with the Indianapolis Colts as a free agent last year following a career at the University of Nevada, his dad's alma mater. Kennard Jr. was brought in three times by the Colts before being cut. Indianapolis still holds his rights, but after a year removed from football, he is determined to play again.
Kennard Jr. left Friday for Ottawa, where, provided he makes the team, he has a two-year contract with an option on the second year to play for the Renegades of the CFL. Ottawa opens the regular season June 24 at Edmonton.
Football in Canada never sounded so good to the 6-foot, 275-pound defensive tackle, who in his senior year at Nevada led the nation in sacks at his position.
"Sitting out a year just ate me alive," Kennard Jr. said.
With an innate passion to play the game, Kennard Jr. knows football.
He just doesn't understand Canadian currency and conversion rates.
"I don't know too much about it," he said, chuckling. "I'm sure once the change starts rolling in I'll learn about it real quick. All I know how to do is get there, put on my helmet, strap it on tight and bite down on my mouthpiece and go knock heads around."
Derek Kennard Sr. remembers those days. He was an offensive lineman for the Cardinals from 1986-1990, New Orleans Saints ('91-'93) and Dallas Cowboys ('94-'96).
Now, he's teaching high school and working with kids.
Kennard Jr. has a way with kids, too. He speaks at local functions and hangs out at Boys & Girls clubs in hopes of bettering a kid's life.
"I'm a big kid at heart," he said. "I love being around it. Hopefully, I'll be able to impact one or two kids' lives."
At Desert Vista, he carried that type of energy.
"He was a step ahead," said former Thunder coach Jim Rattay, whose son, Tim, is a quarterback for San Francisco. "He was leading the parade, he wasn't following the parade. When you've got a lineman that is like that, he just generated so much energy on our team. The kids gravitated around Derek.
"The neat thing about Derek is he was like part of the family. My wife would say, 'He's one of the kids.' He just comes from special parentage."
Kennard Sr. believes Ottawa will be impressed with his son, both on and off the field.
"He has a very high football IQ," Kennard Sr. said. "He also understands players' tendencies. (Ottawa is) getting a really good, quality young man, and a really good Christian kid that has the Lord in his life."
Derek and Denise Kennard plan to see their son play in Vancouver, Calgary and a couple of times in Ottawa. Watching a son play professionally is a treat for any dad.
"I love seeing my kid play ball and see him flourish," Kennard Sr. said. "I think this is a really big step for him. I'm really excited for him to maximize his opportunity."
An opportunity that isn't being scripted strictly after his dad.
"I'm my own player," Kennard Jr. said. "I don't pattern my game after my father. I'm my own athlete, (and) my ultimate goal is to get back to the NFL. I can never sell my dreams short." if(ScriptsLoaded) stInit();[/font]