Don’t let Brandon Kendrick’s stature fool you.
The Hickman running back’s 5-foot-8, 165-pound frame is all that’s small.
Whether it’s statistics on the field, work ethic off the field, a love for his teammates or even his ear-to-ear smile, Kendrick doesn’t fall short in too many other categories.
So far this season, Kendrick’s numbers have been anything but undersized, running for more than 106 yards per game with almost eight yards coming each carry.
A season ago, Kendrick finished 12 yards short of the 1,000-yard mark, a subject that forces the soft-spoken senior’s smile to reappear sheepishly.
“There’s no doubt that reaching 1,000 yards is a goal this season,” Kendrick said. “I feel that I have the best offensive line in front of me. As long as we stay on one accord, I believe I’ll get that.”
Using last season’s near milestone as motivation, Kendrick hit the weight room hard, gaining about 20 pounds in the offseason. His performance in the weight room has impressed teammates and coaches.
Coach Gregg Nesbitt said he was so impressed he dubbed his starting running back the “Little Freak.”
“He’s one of the strongest kids we’ve had, pound for pound, for the past 12 years,” Nesbitt said. “He’s packed in there.”
Kendrick’s rundown in the weight room hardly parallels his size: a 280-pound bench press, a 420-pound parallel squat and a 245-pound power clean.
Strength work has made Kendrick a more durable running back. In his time on the varsity team, Kendrick has yet to miss a practice or a game.
“We’ve got four other really good running backs,” Nesbitt said. “If you want to get on the field, you need to be here every day, you need to practice every day and you need to know what’s going.”
While Kendrick has found numerous reasons to forget his size, his biggest attribute remains intangible.
“So many times with backs, you deal with high egos,” Nesbitt said. “(Kendrick)’s totally consumed with the football team, and I think that’s a real key to his success.”
If you ask Kendrick a question about his teammates or see him talking to his coaches in the film room, you’ll see his infamous smile again.
He just can’t help it.
“I’m a loveable type of guy; that’s just me,” Kendrick said. “I just try to carry that out on the field to other players.”
In 19 years of coaching, Nesbitt has seen unity help several of his successful teams, but he said
Kendrick is the type of player that epitomizes the quality.
“He’s right in the middle of the heart beat of our team,” Nesbitt said.
Kendrick will go head to head with another formidable running back at 7 tonight at Riverview Gardens (3-3). Jevon Watson, the Rams’ leading rusher, has twice run for more than 200 yards this season.
Nesbitt said he hopes to counter Riverview Garden’s running attack with defensive presence in its backfield.
“They’ve struggled a little up front offensively,” Nesbitt said, “so we hope to apply some pressure on them.”
In preparation for tonight’s game, the Hickman coaching staff did not allow its players to watch any film of Riverview Gardens. Instead, the Kewpies (4-1) focused on their own issues, especially in terms of discipline. Hickman is coming off a sloppy game last week, where it committed 14 penalties for 145 yards in a 23-8 win against Hazelwood East.
“We got one more week to continue to get better before districts start,” Nesbitt said.