Integrity, Character Inspired Eddie Kennison's Return to LSU
Eddie Kennison‘s been in those shoes before. His were just faster than everyone else’s.
Still are, in most cases.
Kennison’s name appears all over the LSU football record books: 32 consecutive games with a catch from 1993-95; 3,819 career all-purpose yards; 947 career punt return yards, including a 100-yarder vs. Mississippi State in 1994 that remains a school record.
All that production – plus a 4.28 40-yard dash – turned Kennison into a first round pick in the 1996 NFL Draft and a 14-year NFL veteran with more than 8,000 career receiving yards to his name.
Now, Kennison is back as LSU’s Director of Player Development, a post he holds alongside fellow former Tiger standout Kelvin Sheppard. Where speed used to be the most effective tool in his arsenal, it’s now his experience. He used to be a receiver; now, he’s a relater, first and foremost.
“It’s the experience,” Kennison told 104.5 ESPN’s “Off the Bench” Wednesday. “‘Hey, guys, this is what I went through. I know what you’re going through, I know what you feeling, I know the pressures that you’re going through, I understand the demands that are being asked of you.’
“They tend to listen even more to someone who’s actually been in their shoes before.”
Kennison hasn’t lost a step. He figures with enough time to warm up he could still post a 40 in the 4.4s. Meanwhile, he’s had to hit the ground running in his first weeks on the job. He was hired April 14, a Saturday. The following Thursday, the nationwide shutdowns due to COVID-19 began affecting LSU. His approach has been to emphasize finding positive outcomes with the players, no matter how difficult the circumstances.
“It’s just getting them to really understand the dynamic of change and how fast things can change in our lives, and how we deal with that change in a positive way,” Kennison said. “Let’s see how we can tackle this and make a positive outcome.”
So far, so good, Kennison says. The team has been “knocking it out of the park” with their academics. On the field, as a former receiver, he’s excited to be around a talented group that returns Biletnikoff winner Ja’Marr Chase, junior-to-be Terrace Marshall, and a host of playmakers with high potential.
“If I had an offense like these guys showed this year, I probably would’ve went with the number one pick,” Kennison laughed. “It was so electrifying. It was beautiful to watch. I’m super excited about our young guys that will be playing for the Tigers this year, hopefully.”
One of those young guys Kennison was asked about specifically was Trey Palmer, who returned a punt for a touchdown in his freshman season and looks to factor more on offense in year two. When Kennison watched Palmer working out, it was like seeing himself 15 years ago. The two speak daily, and Kennison recalled one of their first conversations during a spring workout.
“I pulled Trey aside, and I said, ‘You don’t know me that well, brother, but you remind me so much of myself when I was at LSU. Brother, you have an untapped potential to blow this wide receiving corps out of the water. This brother has a talent that is untapped that we want to try to bring everything out of him, because I see it.”
Kennison spent time in the NFL with the St. Louis Rams, the Kansas City Chiefs, the Chicago Bears, the Denver Broncos, and the NEw Orleans Saints, but coming back to work at LSU was, for him, a no brainer.
“Getting the opportunity to step back into greatness – LSU football, Coach O, and the rest of the coaching staff have built something so dynamic,” he said. “And I’m not just talking about football gentlemen. I’m talking about, they’re building young men. The way Coach O runs the program, it leads with character and integrity. A lot of people will say it. Not a lot of people will walk it and show it.”