STANFORD, Calif. — Emmet Kenney vaulted up the national kicking rankings last summer, thanks to a pair of impressive performances at two Kohl’s Kicking Camps. He was tabbed the No. 21 kicker in the nation by Kohl’s in the class of 2021.
As his stock rose, he waited to hear from Stanford University.
"I had been sending them letters, emails, Twitter DMs for several months, even back to a year," said Kenney, a recent graduate of Shanley High School.
The 6-foot-4, 190-pound Kenney remained uncommitted halfway through his senior football season last fall, until a 58-yard field goal landed him on Stanford’s radar. The kick not only etched Kenney’s name in the state record books, but caught the eye of his dream school.
“Starting back when I was 12 years old, I knew that I wanted to go to Stanford, and I wasn’t even playing (kicker) at that time,” Kenney said. “So to have it unfold like this and it ends up that I’m here playing football is something I could’ve never dreamed of.”
Kenney booted the 58-yarder against West Fargo Sheyenne last September. The kick made him a household name among high school football fans in North Dakota, and while there are no official records kept for high school football in North Dakota other than the Dakota Bowl games, it’s the longest field goal known to be on record.
He committed to Stanford, a Power Five school and Pac-12 Conference member, about a week and a half later.
This summer looks a lot different for Kenney, who has been on Stanford’s northern California campus since June 14. He’s been working out with teammates and taking a class, while getting acclimated with Stanford’s sprawling campus. The university, located on more than 8,000 acres in the center of the San Francisco Peninsula, is one of the largest college campuses in the U.S.
But, the incoming freshman kicker has adjusted well.
“I haven’t been homesick too much just because there's so much going on out here and I enjoy it so much,” Kenney said. “Of course I miss my friends and family back home, but I also love being out here and I’m going to make the most of this summer.”
Kenney’s oldest brother, John, graduated from Stanford Law School. His other older brother, Will, holds a bachelor’s degree from Stanford and is working toward his master’s at the school.
Before he went out West, Kenney spent a lot of his time kicking and building up leg endurance. At Stanford, he has a morning conditioning session followed by afternoon weights several days a week. He also works with the rest of the specialists.
“It’s been everything I could ask for,” Kenney said on Stanford.
With fall camp around the corner, the Cardinal are working to get their bodies ready for the season, he said.
“Fall camp is gonna be a grind, it’s gonna be really tough,” Kenney said. “I’ve heard the stories from players here, but at the same time, I'm so excited. ... Just going to try to get myself as best prepared for the season as I can and try to help the rest of the specialists room do the same.”
Kenney, a five-star kicker according to Kohl’s Professional Camps, is doing all he can to make sure he’s ready to compete for the job his first year in the program.
“There’s other good kickers on this team, absolutely. But I’d be doing a disservice to myself if I had a mentality other than I’m here to compete to win a job,” Kenney said. “I love the other kickers here, they’re amazing guys and I have so much respect for them.
“But in my mind, if I push myself and we compete, it only makes the whole room better. So, absolutely I’m gonna go in with the intent to do the best I can and try to earn a job.”
In a Dec. 16 signing day press conference, Stanford head football coach David Shaw said, “With (punter) Connor Weselman coming in and Emmet Kenney, (those) are two guys that we feel great about being able to come in, learn early on and before long, really compete to get on the field.”
Kenney made all 32 extra points and had 30 touchbacks for the Deacons, who went 4-4 last fall. He made two 50-yard field goals in the same game against Grand Forks Red River last October to add to his already stellar senior season.
Stanford, which went 4-2 in last year’s pandemic-altered season, opens the year Sept. 4 against Kansas State in the Allstate Kickoff Classic at AT&T Stadium. Allowed to play in up to four games and still retain his redshirt, Kenney’s redshirt status will be determined as the season goes on, he said.
“Growing up, when I was a kid, you had those great USC teams and the Oregon teams and Stanford teams,” Kenney said. “It’s always been such an exciting conference and I love how late the games are back in Fargo. I would always stay up late and watch the 'Pac-12 After Dark'.”
The Cardinal open Pac-12 play at the University of Southern California on Sept. 11. Kenney said he feels “fortunate” to compete in the conference, which he also thinks is “severely underrated.”
Stanford was always his dream school, but he didn’t picture himself suiting up for the Cardinal until recent years. Kenney, who played soccer for many years, started out as a wide receiver and didn’t start taking kicking seriously until late middle school. The thought of kicking at a Division I program also didn’t become a reality until his junior year, when he saw how he stacked up at some national kicking camps.
Stanford was Kenney's first Football Bowl Subdivision offer, though he received interest from other FBS schools. He held multiple offers from Football Championship Subdivision programs, including both North Dakota State and the University of North Dakota.