A fan-favorite series is coming back to the site as it is officially prospect interview season. For anybody new to the site or for people who need a reminder, every draft season I sit down with prospects that are going to be in the upcoming NFL Draft to talk with them about their off-field accomplishments and some film aspects on the field. While I don’t always talk to star players, I have been able to talk to a few players who eventually ended up with the Colts such as Khari Willis, Marvell Tell III, and Rock Ya-Sin.
Our next prospect interview is with Tennessee interior offensive lineman Brandon Kennedy. We had a great conversation about his successes off of the field, whether body blows matter in the game of football, and what he brings to an NFL team.
Weight: 300 pounds
Class: RS Senior
Kennedy was a former four-star recruit out of Wetumpka High School in Wetumpka, Alabama. He started his career at Alabama but opted to transfer to Tennessee after his Sophomore season after appearing in just seven games in two years without a start. He was granted a waiver to play immediately in the 2018 season and was in line to be the starting center before suffering a season-ending knee injury in the preseason prior to the year.
He was able to bounce back from that knee in 2019 and went on to start 21 games over the next two seasons for the Volunteers. After his Senior season, Kennedy was awarded the NFF National Scholar-Athlete which is an award granted to players to honor their accomplishments both on the field and in the classroom.
He was also a finalist for the William V. Campbell Trophy which is awarded to the collegiate athlete who best combines academics, community service, and on-field performance. Kennedy also graduated with a Master’s Degree in Sports Psychology in 2019 and with a second Master’s in Agricultural Leadership, Education, and Communications in 2020.
ZH: So I like to start these interviews with off-the-field accomplishments but I may go for hours with all of yours. Let’s start with your Master’s in Sport Psychology. How did you know that was something you wanted to get into?
BK: So it kind of started back in 2017. I had an injury that kept me out for the season and that was the first time I had to miss an entire season with an injury. So, getting that and having to deal with that made me go and see a clinical psychologist. When I went and talked with her, the things we talked about were things we all know but nobody really thinks about. So, I thought right then that this is something that I could help people with one day and make sure that they don’t have to go through the things that I went through when I was sitting out with my injury. That is when I really got into the psychology part of it and then, once I graduated, I saw that Tennessee had a Sports Psychology program and that seemed like the perfect thing to work towards with my Master’s.
ZH: Yeah and you mentioned that injury there that I know is a long process to bounce back from. What was that entire recovery season like for you?
BK: Yeah, so I had worked so hard to get where I was so at first, I really couldn’t believe it. I was like, “Dang. I had worked so hard and now I am out for the whole season. I’m not going to be back until January.” It was kind of hard. One of the things you kind of learn though is the perspective you have on a lot of the things that you do can really determine your emotions and feelings on the things you do. The clinical psychologist helped me then by having me look at the short-term goals to get me to the overall long-term ones. The first thing that I looked at when I got hurt was when I was going to be back. However, knowing that this kind of injury takes a while to come back from, I had to set weekly goals or daily goals. Those types of things helped me ultimately get back and be able to play.
ZH: I saw a video on YouTube of you where Peyton Manning presented you with the NFF National Scholar-Athlete Award this season. What was it like to get that award after everything you have been through?
BK: That was a great honor. They brought me into the team room and I kind of had a video message from Peyton Manning. It was definitely an honor because I worked so hard throughout the year. Just as hard as I worked on the field, I worked that hard in the classroom. So, to see it pay off and be recognized for that was a great honor.
ZH: I was really impressed with your physicality up front and your desire to finish blocks. How big is it to you personally to be known as a finisher up front?
BK: I think that is very important. One thing that we harped on in preseason camp and going into the season is those last two seconds of every block. That can be the difference between a four-yard run and a ten-yard run. Those last two seconds of the block are what we focused on and just overall, it’s the attitude you have to have as a linemen. You are hitting someone every play and you are protecting the quarterback so you have to have that approach because playing offensive line is not fair.
ZH: You know, there is this war in football when it comes to analytics and on-the-field play lately. One analytic point is that body blows don’t matter because they cannot be numerically accounted for. Being in the trenches though, do you think body blows matter?
BK: Those body blows definitely matter. Analytics is great and a great tool to utilize and see things in sports but on the field, if you are hitting your opponent in the mouth every play then by the fourth quarter, that changes their mindset. One thing you always want to do on the line is to change your opponents’ mindset by the time you get to the fourth quarter. I take that to heart and the thing I work to. If I can be physical and show him I want it more than him, he is likely to give up at some point.
Love turning on a player's film and seeing a big play right off the bat. Tennessee OC Brandon Kennedy has my attention pic.twitter.com/sZhlKPqHim— Zach Hicks (@ZachHicks2) February 11, 2021
Playing with Studs
ZH: You were luckily to line up with some studs on that Tennessee offensive line this year with Trey Smith on one side and I believe Cade Mays on the other. What was that like for you?
BK: Yeah we had Trey Smith on one side and then Cade Mays and Jerome Carvin played on the other side. I feel like what made us a pretty good line is we all had the same mentality. Each game, we wanted to make our opponents quit. I think that is how they play the game and also how I play it so, that is what made us click and gel as an offensive line.
More steam. Tennessee OL with a little nasty here.— Jesse Simonton (@JesseReSimonton) October 20, 2019
Vols having some success running behind Trey Smith and BK, with some 'move the pile' assists from Carvin, Darnell Wright, and Smith again.
This is the 'finish' Jeremy Pruitt is looking for. pic.twitter.com/DDBZmPU2l5
Leader on the Offensive line
ZH: So the center position is like the quarterback of the offensive line for the team. How were you able to step into a leadership role for Tennessee?
BK: It honestly came naturally to me. The year that I got injured, I started playing center and I came to the realization that the center has to be vocal and they have to be able to get everybody on the same page. So once I got here in 2018, it just came naturally. I worked hard on the field and in workouts so I knew once we got on the field, they would listen to me and believe what I tell them. So if I tell them to set the protection a certain way, they know that I’m leading them. That position put me as the leader of the team, and a leader of the offensive line.
ZH: What is my NFL team getting if they spend a draft pick on Brandon Kennedy?
BK: I think you are getting an intelligent center. I can play any of the interior positions and I’m able to pick up playbooks quickly as well, I’ve been through like three or four Offensive Coordinators. The other thing you are getting is a physical player. That is what we talked about earlier but that is how I pride myself and how I play the game. Those two things are big and also, off the field, I’m dedicated and driven. So when you combine all of those things together then I think you are drafting a pretty good player.
I came away pretty impressed with watching the film on Brandon Kennedy. I think he is a fairly agile center with an attack mentality who is one of the smarter players on the football field. There are some areas to improve on but I think a team is going to get a solid rotational player on day three of the draft.
For the Colts, Kennedy does fit everything they want in terms of his character off the field and smarts on the field. However, they do seem primed to develop Danny Pinter as the depth center and interior offensive lineman. I think there is an avenue where he could end up in Indy but other, more pressing needs may prevent that from happening on day three. Regardless, Kennedy is a very impressive man with a bright future ahead of him.