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A Rudy Walk on

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Guest SirJohn

From the Rockford Register




BHS grad’s journey to play for Notre Dame reminiscent of Rudy


At 6 feet and 180 pounds, he’s not the kind of recruit that would make Notre Dame’s football coaching staff take notice.


So how do you explain the fact that Tim Kenney, a 2003 graduate of Belvidere High School, was able to make Notre Dame’s 2005 football team as a walk-on?


“Can you believe that?” Kenney said by phone as he took a break from first-semester finals.


You can if you believe blending hard work, heart, drive and determination can make dreams come true.


“Since I was 5 years old, my dream always had been to go to Notre Dame,” Kenney said. “But I didn’t get accepted out of high school.”


Instead he attended the University of Illinois, “which I fell in love with.”


When it came time to apply for transfers, Kenney talked to his parents, Jerry and Sherry Kenney, who suggested he apply. During summer 2004, he learned he had been accepted, so he switched schools.


Kenney, a star defensive back for Coach Mike Hearn at BHS, thought about football the first time he stepped onto the storied campus.


“GOING TO NOTRE DAME, how can you help but think of football every day?” he said. “As far as walking on, well, it’s one of those big-time dreams that you hear about but never think it’s going to be reality.”


He didn’t try out as a sophomore, but Kenney thought he might have a chance with the new coaching staff. The new coach was Charlie Weis, formerly the offensive coordinator for the New England Patriots.


Kenney, who has been lifting weights since he was an eighth-grader, was in great shape at tryouts. First, he was asked to come to spring football; then his position coach, Bill Lewis, asked him to come back in the fall.


“That’s when it really sunk in,” Kenney said.


Kenney is a defensive back, a nonscholarship player who dresses for home games but doesn’t travel with the team. Still, it was a thrill seeing his name on a jersey.


“My first home game, Sept. 17 against Michigan State, was amazing,” Kenney said. “It was my first time in the locker room, then getting to run out of the tunnel … there’s really no way to describe it.”


Kenney hasn’t played a down, but he got to see USC, the No. 1-rated team in the U.S., as well as Brigham Young, Tennessee, Navy and Syracuse.


ALL PLAYERS WILL TRAVEL to the final game, which means that Kenney will be with the team Jan. 2 when it plays Ohio State in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl in Tempe, Ariz.


If Kenney’s story has a familiar ring, it’s probably because you remember the 1993 film “Rudy.” In that film, Sean Astin played Rudy Ruettiger, who defies the odds and makes Notre Dame’s football team as a walk-on.


“I actually met him,” Kenney said of the real Rudy. “He came and talked to the team. I talked to him and told him my story.”


Mike Doyle’s column on people, places and things runs Thursdays in The Weekly section of the Register Star.

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Guest Irish4life

to dress out, go through the tunnel and run out to step on the field where all those greats played and the band playing all the fans cheering you on. that would be good enough for me, that would make my life happy.

i would probably shed a tear or two before i ran out thinking about the experience.

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