FARGO — As the ongoing coronavirus pandemic continues to upend the college football world and leave prospects around the country fearful of fading off the NCAA Division I football recruiting radar, the future of Fargo Shanley’s Emmet Kenney isn't as cloudy.
Kenney isn’t plagued by the giant question mark surrounding recruiting. Losing crossover games with the West Region, the college prospect won’t be hurt by a limited football season. He also wouldn’t be if there were no football, and not just because he has enough leg to hit from 60 yards in practice.
The Deacons kicker took care of any worries this summer with some strong showings at a couple Kohl’s Kicking Camps. Kohl’s Professional Camps, considered the premier camp for specialists in the country, is an offseason avenue where most kickers find their way to a Division I scholarship.
Kenney jumped more than 20 spots at the Kohl’s National Scholarship Camp in July, gaining exposure and a top-25 national ranking. The Shanley senior moved up from a No. 45 ranking to the No. 21-ranked kicker in the nation in the 2021 class at the event in Gatlinburg, Tenn.
“The last two camps were definitely huge for me,” Kenney said. “I’ve seen some more interest in colleges ever since that happened. The Kohl’s rankings are a huge part of the recruiting process for specialists. So I'm really happy with my performance in that.”
Kohl’s Kicking seemed to be pleased with the college prospect’s performance, too. Kohl’s described Kenney as showing next-level leg strength with multiple 70-plus yard kickoffs.
“He strikes a clean ball on field goals and has the leg talent to compete at the next level,” according to Kohl’s. “With continued refinement to his technique he will be ready to compete with anyone in the country. We expect big things this upcoming year from Kenney because he has the talent required to be dominant.”
The 6-foot-2, 180-pound Kenney was 7 of 8 inside 40 yards last fall as a junior and recorded 20 touchbacks on kickoffs for the Deacons. He’s successfully hit 55- and 60-yarders in practice, with his personal best being 61.
Kenney has been working with Kohl’s for the past year, attending four total camps, his latest in June and July. He got into the Kohl’s cycle later than most guys, but that hasn’t seemed to hamper his recruiting window.
“Those camps are great just to be able to see your competition, and see who you're going up against for college offers and also for getting exposure,” Kenney said.
Kohl’s also dubbed Kenney a five-star kicker at the National Scholarship Camp.
“I knew how important it was, but I had to just stay focused and not get too worried or nervous about it,” Kenney said on the July event. “Your performance could end up dictating where you end up and what college you go to. I knew that I had to lock in and give it my best and I was grateful that I performed really well at both of the camps.”
The No. 21-ranked kicker in the country had two FCS offers in his pocket from North Dakota State and the University of South Dakota before the July camp. His abilities have also grabbed the attention of some FBS colleges in the Mountain West Conference — the FBS conference recruiting him most — and from the Big Ten.
“I don’t have a predetermined, 'I want to go here,' 'This is my goal,' school,” Kenney said. “Five years ago I didn’t think I’d be playing a college sport. I’m just really grateful to have all these opportunities and to have a couple of great offers like I do already. I’ll just have to see where I am in a few months and hopefully I'll be able to make a great decision.”
Kenney grew up wanting to be a college basketball player, but realized in middle school that probably wasn’t going to happen. His sister, Sophie Kenney, played basketball for Augustana in Sioux Falls, S.D.
Until his junior year, after missing his sophomore season to injury, Kenney thought he’d be going to school for just an education.
Kenney knew a successful showing at the Kohl’s camps and a strong senior season — both seeming like they may not happen — would be particularly important to his recruiting fortune.
“I’m grateful that we’re playing, because I know there's a lot of states that aren't playing this fall, whether they’re playing in the spring or not at all,” Kenney said. “So I think it might be an advantage in the recruiting process just because colleges won't be able to look at as many players in all those different states that aren't playing.
“I’m just looking forward to the opportunity to play for my team and try to help us win as much as I can.”
The Deacons are slated to open their season against Fargo South on Friday, Aug. 28.