Jennings a key piece of the defensive puzzle

On a team with many great players, it is easy for some quality players to slip through the cracks without many people noticing. One of the least heralded but biggest contributors on the Hurricanes is cornerback Kelly Jennings.
The reason for the lack of attention could be that Jennings is not overly flashy. A sophomore from Live Oak, Florida, Jennings simply tries to be one piece of a defense with many accomplished players.
“I just try to play my role because the coach has a great scheme for us and I just feel like I am part of the puzzle,” Jennings said. “I just try to do what I am supposed to do. I try to do things that are right.”
Jennings started at cornerback for the Hurricanes last season after red shirting in 2001. He played a major role from day one and helped the ‘Canes mount a comeback last season against Rutgers with a key interception. This season, Jennings has solidified his starting spot and flourished in that role.
“Kelly has come a long way. He is coming back off his hand injury and he has been more physical, more competitive, and he is starting to play really well now,” Defensive Coordinator Randy Shannon said. “He is starting to get back in the feel of what we wanted him to do last year. He is playing great and we are confident in him.”
On the field, Jennings gets his motivation from different sources. The main influence on his life is his family. As the youngest of four children, Jennings had several people to look up to.
“My family is kind of unique in the simple aspect that my parents were 42 when I was born,” Jennings said. “I have two brothers and one sister; my brothers were 19 and 17, and my sister was 16. It is almost like I had three dads and two moms.”
As a matter of fact, it was Jennings’ family that got him into football in the first place. His older brother was a huge football fan, but it was his mother who got him into the sport.
“I used to go to games with my mother. I saw the guys playing and it was something I wanted to do, so my mother enrolled me into the recreation league,” Jennings said.
Things were not always that easy for Jennings, however. His mother lost her job when he was young, so Jennings learned hard work and dedication from his father.
“I saw my dad, when my mom lost her job, working overtime and having to do the things he needed to do to keep her from going back to work,” Jennings said. “He was providing for me and for her, and that inspires me to do the things I do now.”
Everyone who knows Jennings from the football team or his daily life speaks highly of him. In the classroom, Jennings, a finance major, takes his education very seriously.
“Academics are one of the most important things to me. I’m not relying on football to take me where I need to be,” Jennings said. “I want to get my education and get my degree because football is not going to last forever, and when it ends, I want to have something to fall back on. Even if I do make it to the NFL, I want to have a degree so that I can go work afterwards.”
There is really nothing negative one can say about Kelly Jennings. He excels on the field, in the classroom, and as a person.
“He is a great kid,” Shannon said. “He doesn’t say much, he’s quiet and just does his job. You never have to worry about academics or anything else. He is an A-1 class guy.”