Wednesday, September 15, 2010
Interview with former Husky great Lincoln Kennedy
I've never done this before but in this piece I sat down and conducted an interview with Husky great Lincoln Kennedy over the phone. Lincoln Kennedy is a former two time All-American offensive lineman while at the University of Washington. He has appeared in three rosebowls, won a national championship. Then in the NFL he went to the pro bowl and a Superbowl with the Oakland Raiders. He was also on NFL Network when it first began.
Seattle Sports Blog: Compare the games in Lincoln, Nebraska vs the night game in 1992?
Both games were electric. It was an electric game, prior to the Nebraska game I couldn't imagine how a small city could produce such a great atmosphere. I'm from a big city so flying into Lincoln, the biggest building in the entire region was the football stadium which was full of nothing but red and white. There was a sense of do we belong? Can we hold our own? This was a chance to answer those questions.
I was just blown away at the night game. This was the first night game I had ever played in at Husky Stadium. It was like God intended this day to be great any other day it might have been bad weather but today it was beautiful. Clear sky and blue sky you couldn't have asked for a more special place. You had the boats out there and the crowd was loud it was pretty special. After 1991, we had the swagger we knew what it took to win these type of games since we proved the year before we could do it. We lost some key players but we also returned plenty of talent from the year before plus a healthy Mark Brunell and Napoleon Kaufman was a year older.
SSB: Facing the 21-9 deficit in Lincoln, Nebraska where nobody wins ever how did you guys feel?
I felt we weren't out of it. I knew with our defense and our big hitters they would keep us in it. I was young and naive to realize how big of a moment this was and how hostile the crowd was. We could do some things on offense it's not like we were getting stuffed just stalling. We did a great job of overcoming adversity and penalties to regroup and get it all together. We just had to get over the initial crowd noise.
SSB: I noticed in 1991 you were right tackle and in 1992 you were the left tackle. Was that because Mark Brunell who is left handed was supposed to be the starting quarterback?
Yes that is correct I was always supposed to be the blind side. Then we were going to switch but with both quarterbacks they just left me at right tackle in 1991 anyways.
It helps to have a great teammate in Sup Malamala who was also first team all pac-10 at left tackle.
SSB: You have have had the great opportunity to play in a Rose bowl and a Superbowl can you compare the two? I know its Apples to Oranges.
The Rose bowl I went my sophomore year and we beat Iowa(46-34) and then with the rest of our team basically being sophomore's and juniors it was expected. I knew it was going to happen we all did that we'd be back my junior and senior season so it was more expectations than thrill.
Superbowl wow there is so much hype to begin with than a Rose bowl. Both are very special games. The Rose bowl you have the prestige of playing on January 1st but you share that day with other teams. The Super Bowl you are the only game on T.V. and everyone in the world is watching you. Its just so difficult to get into the Super Bowl. I didn't get there until late in my career and even after getting there it was hard getting back. The Super Bowl is just a special game.
SSB: You have been very fortunate to win a National Championship and then the AFC Championship. I know one was on paper and the other was on the field. Can you compare the two?
On the National Championship we felt that everything that we did from execution, to hitting to the scores that we put up that we did everything we could have done to win a National Championship.
At the Marriott Hotel the little wing off the side was all UW. From players, to boosters, to alumni, to reporters. After the win over #3 Michigan(34-14) nobody slept we all stayed up waiting to find out the results. I don't know what time it was but it was late in the morning when it was announced we were national champions. You could hear the entire hotel freaking out on every floor. People screaming outside their windows it was just crazy. It was crazier than the wildest frat party you could ever imagine that's how insane it was.
Winning the AFC championship was a feeling of relief. I was starting to doubt would I ever get to play in a Superbowl. I had been close a couple of times but when the clock ticked to zero I was just happy. Also helps celebrating in Oakland with the black hole craziness.
SSB: How was "sharing" the 1991 National Championship with Miami? And was the goal to win a national championship?
We wanted a crack at Miami. The system back then had bowl alignment so we couldn't play them. With that year and a few other situations after that(1994, Nebraska wins title, Penn state undefeated gets nothing. 1997, Nebraska and Michigan share) the BCS game was started because of that.
The National Championship never once came in discussion. The goal was to go to the Rose bowl and win the Rose bowl. We had to just worry about what we can control. We took things one week at a time. We had to because we got everyone best game. Look at California that was a close game(UW won at Cal 24-17, Cal was ranked 8th). We always won the close games under Don James. The only time we would lose is when adversity in the locker room hit. If it wasn't for that Billy Joe crap we go undefeated in 1992 I believe.
SSB: I don't want to get into the details as I respect Billy Joe greatly but can you describe the circus that surrounded the 1993 Rose Bowl? Instead of celebrating your third trip in a row you are answering non football related questions.
When all that junk came out I was even mentioned and I didn't do anything! When I recruited Napoleon Kaufman(all-time leading rusher in Washington Huskies history) all I had to do was stand with Sup[Malamala] and be like we are blocking for you. That was the selling point once he saw us two he was like oh it's done I'm going to Washington to run behind you two I'll never get touched.
We were all just confused as anyone else. They wanted to have a scapegoat and its sad that they would give in and allow such a great man to take the fall.
SSB: How did you guys all react to the aftermath of the sanctions?
When we all got wind of what was going down we were all upset that they would allow James to take the fall. I have no respect for Barbara Hedges(Then UW athletic director). I lost ties to the program because of that. How can you not admit the wrongs that you did and just pin it all on Don James?! That just isn't right at all.
Probation really hurts you. You have no idea how badly it hurts you. Oregon and Oregon State are successful because of our probation. It allowed all these schools to catch up. We not only lost scholarships but other schools were using that against us. When I played every Northwest kid went to UW. Don James had a fence around the Northwest. I said this under the Willingham years as well it just hurts you. Taylor Mays, Jonathan Stewart and Stephen Schilling would all be Washington Huskies instead of helping beat us.
Now all anyone cares about is the facility's. We had a weight room when I was there in 1991 and it was packed. Husky Stadium is a great place to play and the surrounding beauty you can't get anywhere else.
Its just a shame how they allowed such a great man to step down and take a fall. Hedges claims she did this to help the program but in fact she killed the program.
SSB: How was playing for the man you obviously have a ton of respect for Don James?
He had a funny way of getting the best out of you. First of all unless you were one of the main players like a senior captain he never talked to you. He coached you through his coaches. It was weird because I'm used to some one on one coaching from a head coach but he was very distant from you. At first you wonder why you would ever play for him but when you are older you realized why. His methods worked and he demanded a lot from us.
He was a little guy but he demanded fear. I'm a big guy and he scared me. He demanded fear. He was like the principal at school. If he was talking to you or you were called in his office it was never good. That means you screwed up and you were going to get your butt chewed out.
He had a great system all three phases of the game were stressed. We could score a touchdown on offense, score on an interception. One year it was Beno returning punts for a touchdown(Beno Bryant led the Nation in punt return yards in 1990) or in 1991 with Napoleon Kaufman on kickoffs. We had great hitters and great speed and you add it all up the sky was the limit.
SSB: Now I heard Don James coached from the Tower how intimidating was that?
He always saw everything. The tower was right in the middle so he could see every mistake you made. The worst was when he'd get really angry and come down the tower you didn't want to see him do that. If he ran down the tower we had to start practice all over again. We would start at the goaline and start our jog then our stretch and start all over.
These kids are spoiled now a days with the 20 hour a week practice rule. A couple of times James came down and we had to start all over. One practice we started at 3 p.m. and didn't get done til 9 p.m. because we had to start all over. It was terrible but it made it made us pay attention to details more.
SSB: Last question Lincoln when you were a freshman did you guys know that you were going to make history at Washington? I mean your class featured you, Dave[Hoffmann], Mark[Brunell] and even Steve[Emtman] was supposed to be a senior.
To be honest with you no I didn't. My redshirt freshman year we couldn't beat anyone(went 6-5). We lost WSU and I think Oregon came into our house and beat us as well. College football sucked that year, the coaches kicked our butts all year long as they weren't used to a season like that. I remember Jon Volpe of Stanford running up and down on us and that was just embarassing.
Then it just came down to Steven, Dave and myself saying to ourselves this is our future. This is not the way we want to have our college careers be where we are just average. Lets do something about it and work our tails off.
SSB: Then the next year vs Oregon State you put in Donald Jones and won that game. Went on to beat Florida and shut down this guy named....Emmitt Smith and the rest is history as they say.
Looking back its funny how that worked out. During recruiting I came to Washington because they were the only school who let me play defense. I came in with Emtman and Mike Lustyk. Well the defense had changed to a quicker defense and they told me to switch. It was either I don't play or I switch to offensive line.
I switched the offensive line and it worked out. During that run of three straight Rosebowls we were all spoiled. Jose the equipment guy who still works there started in 1989 so he just figured we would do it every year.
Its crazy in my years at Washington I spent every December in LA(1989-played in Anaheim vs Florida, 1990-1992 Rosebowl).
SSB: Hey Lincoln I'm going to the Nebraska game this Saturday are you going?
No I live in Arizona I will not be going to the game. I went to the ASU game last year and I'll be going to the Arizona game this year.
SSB: Is there anything special going on next year for your guys 20th anniversity(I actually slipped and said 10, its been 20 already?) of the National Championship?
I haven't heard anything from the school. We have all gotton together and we'll be up there don't worry. We have something planned amongst ourselves and we'll be there.
SSB: Well Lincoln that sounds great and thanks for the interview I appreciate it
No problem and thanks for the interview I really enjoyed it and go Dawgs!