Kinder Awaiting His Chance
On paper, Randy Kinder is a coach’s dream.
He runs very, very fast. He carries weight well on his frame. He’sblessed with strength and field vision, can hit the hole in an instant, andlikes contact.
But in reality, Kinder has not yet become a dream come true.
“I haven’t done all that I’ve wanted to,” Kinder acknowledges. “I havemore to accomplish, more goals for myself. I just hope I can break throughand make the most of my opportunities.”
In his freshman year, Kinder surpassed expectations for a rookie tailbackas Lee Becton’s more than capable back-up, posting 537 yards (second on theteam to Becton), a 6.0 yard per carry average, and two 100+ yard games.
With Becton hampered by a groin injury, Kinder assumed a starting roleduring his sophomore year. He continued to prove himself as a promisingrusher with a string of four 100+ yard games, including a career high of143 yards against Purdue. His total yards on the season crept up to 702.But after Becton returned to the squad, Kinder found the ball in his handson fewer occasions, unable to keep his starting spot. Unfortunately, hissolid season was capped by a knee ligament injury, preventing him fromplaying in the Fiesta Bowl against Colorado.
“We went through a tough year, my sophomore year,” Kinder recalls. “WithLee injured I was able to get a lot of games in. But when he came back, Iwasn’t playing that much anymore. And then I had the knee injury whichended my season. It was tough.”
In the following off-season, disciplinary troubles found Kinder and fellowtailback Robert Farmer. The two were accused of misconduct dating back tothe night of October 16, 1994, by a female student at Notre Dame. Althoughthe University conducted an investigation and exonerated the athletes, theincident placed another question mark on the athlete’s shoulders.
In his junior year, Kinder’s numbers kept improving as he started eightgames in the backfield for the Irish. He again paced the squad, amassing809 yards and adding nine touchdowns on the ground, tying Marc Edwards forthe team lead in rushing touchdowns. Once again, though, his season wasmarred, as minor injuries and a death in his family kept the speedster fromreaching full acceleration. And filling in nicely was budding starfreshman Autry Denson.
“Last year, I was able to play a lot and get really rolling, but then I wasinjured, there’s a death in my family, and I miss a game. I come back anddon’t get to play as much as I had wanted to. I never really have feltlike I’ve hit my stride. Last year was the closest I’ve come, but, again,I never really got there.”
To add to his list of setbacks, Kinder was kept out of Notre Dame’s bowlgame for the second year in a row, this time due to a team suspension.Kinder released a statement to the press apologizing to Notre Dame for hissuspension, pointing to “overindulgence of alcohol and my subsequentimmature behavior” as the reasons for the disciplinary action. Thesuspension forced Kinder to miss spring football practices as well.At Culver Military Academy this past summer, Kinder took snaps again withthe team for the first time in a long time, hoping to start fresh in hissenior season. But before the team played their first game, anotherinjury, this time a pulled quadriceps muscle, forced Kinder to thesidelines once again.
He returned to face Texas in the third game of the season, and got in a fewcarries before an ill-timed Ron Powlus pitch on the option allowed Texassafety Bryant Westbrook the opportunity to nearly decapitate the runningback. Although his head somehow stayed on his body, Kinder sat out theremainder of the game.
Thus far, Kinder’s 131 yards on 26 carries only raise a brow, mainlybecause people expect better from him. He has so much talent. So muchspeed. So much potential.
There’s that word again, potential.
“I definitely haven’t grown as much as I’d hoped to,” Kinder admits. “It’sbeen a strange career for me; never reaching the top of my game.”It has been frustrating. But I feel like every time I get out there, I’mstill learning, still getting better. I just hope I get the opportunity toreach my full potential.”
That’s the funny thing about Randy Kinder. Chances are, he only needs oneopportunity. If he gets it, if the holes are open for a split second, if adefender takes a bad angle on a tackle, if he gets some breathing room…say goodbye, ’cause he’s gone.
“I rely on a lot of speed … God gave me a lot of speed. It’s really beenthe centerpiece of my game since high school. It still is.”However, Kinder has had his chances on the field. Although he has splittime with Denson and Farmer thus far, some folks believe that successdoesn’t come from an excess of opportunities, but from making the most ofthe ones you get.
One man with this opinion is running back coach Earle Mosley.
“You can’t be inefficient with the chances you get. The fact is, whenyou’ve got the ball, you’ve got to do something with it.
“Case in point, take Reggie Brooks. He averaged 8.0 yards per carry(during the 1992 season). On how many carries? Fifteen a game. That’swhat being efficient is all about, and that’s why Reggie was a good back.”Randy’s got sprinter’s speed. I think that he could’ve gone to theOlympics if he focused on track. And think about it, he’s 200 pounds. Hemoves pretty fast for a big man. But he’s got to make the most of thatspeed when he’s got the ball.”
“Randy can break one anytime,” Denson says. “He’s dangerous.”In Kinder’s case, being dangerous may be bad. The opposition knows hisspeed is his major asset and plays him that way, cutting off chances forKinder to take the ball around the ends.Mosley emphasizes that the way to beat this quandary is to have a goodall-around game.
“Randy came out of high school knowing how to run around end. Sure, he’sfast. But he needed to learn how to do other things, like take it up themiddle and catch passes and block well.
“If an opponent has to prepare for an all-around player, you’ve got theadvantage. And Randy’s a much better back now than he was coming in.”Randy Kinder’s collegiate career ends after the next six or seven games.With 2,179 career yards, he has the opportunity to reach third place on theall-time rushing list, needing 503 yards to catch up with Jerome Heavens.God knows Kinder has the speed to catch up.
Behind Kinder on the list of the all-time leading rushers are Lee Becton,Jerome Bettis, Ray Zellars, and Ricky Watters. He needs 162 more to passthe Gipper.
Randy Kinder has accomplished quite a few things at Notre Dame. He’smanaged to make his mark despite healthy competition from teammates,injuries, and problems off the field.
It’s time for Kinder to break out. To take one play coast-to-coast, maybemore than one. To make people realize that he is in the process ofrealizing his potential. He needs time.
He’s got six more games.