When it was announced that junior running back Wesley Kennedy III would not be playing due to academic suspension right before kickoff at LSU, Eagle Nation was caught off-guard at the absence of the man behind the strong Georgia Southern football rushing game. After last Saturday’s performance, it’s safe to say the comeback has begun for the Savannah native.
“He is a competitor,” Head Coach Chad Lunsford said. “He’s not just a game guy. He practices as hard as anyone on this football team each and every day...He’s playing hard...and he wants to do everything to help us win.”
Kennedy was sidelined for four games due to an academic suspension from the NCAA and returned against South Alabama. The bylaw set by the league states the reasoning below.
“Football student-athletes who do not earn 9-semester/8-quarter hours during the fall term and fail to earn the eligibility point may not be eligible to compete during the first four games during the next season.”
During those four weeks where the team went 1-3, Kennedy continued to condition and sharpen his skills. Redshirt-sophomore Logan Wright, who is currently injured for the next few weeks with a neck injury, kept the offense moving during his absence.
In his first two seasons on the team, he played 23 out of 25 games and rushed for over 600 yards. Lunsford has long preached that the team has not had a great game yet, but they are slowly improving every week. Kennedy has been a large asset to the offense and overall team morale since his return.
He has meshed well with redshirt-junior quarterback Shai Werts and has quickly become a fan favorite for his dancing celebrations and positive nature off the field.
In Saturday’s triple-overtime victory over Coastal Carolina, Kennedy scored the game winning touchdown which capped off his 117-yard and two touchdown showing. What was his first move after winning the game? He took the ball to his mother in the stands. Even after just a short conversation with Kennedy and a quick glance at his social media will show that he does everything he can to make his mother proud. With the suspension being a bump in the road, he has learned his lesson and is looking forward to straightening his path.
Though the numbers speak volumes, he is not satisfied yet.
“I have a lot of mixed emotions about my performance,” Kennedy said. “I just had to get the jitters out because I was out for a little minute.”
He has been very successful with his efforts on offense. Since his suspension, he has already tied last season’s touchdown record of three in these two games.
“Wesley is a huge lift to our offense,” Lunsford said. “I hated for our football team that he wasn’t out there the first four games because he was obviously missed. What I’ll say about that kid is he turned a negative into a positive and you can tell he’s playing with a chip on his shoulder… He plays to win every play and is very dialed in and focused.”
Kennedy is no stranger to a comeback, as he had a very successful senior year in high school and had to deal with a tough season as a freshman at GS, which resulted in a 2-10 record. He was the GHSA Class AA Offensive Player of the Year and assisted his alma mater, Benedictine High School, to reach a 53-4 record over his four years. He received over ten offers but chose GS without any hesitation. He is determined to make the most out of his time as an Eagle, no matter the circumstances.
He knows what it feels like to be at a low low and a very high high. In both capacities, he has maintained the same work ethic.
Kennedy will continue his comeback effort in front of many GS alumni on Saturday in Paulson and the team will take on a winless New Mexico State team.
Amanda Arnold, The George-Anne Sports Editor, firstname.lastname@example.org