Tom Keegan: Miles Kendrick looks up to short quarterback for inspiration
Kansas sophomore signee Miles Kendrick doesn’t look at a tall quarterback through green-tinted glasses of envy. He’s more likely to look at him and wonder how much better Stretch might be if only he had the advantage of being shorter than the prototypical passer.
“When I was younger, I was like, ‘I can’t wait until I’m 6-2 or 6-3,'” Kendrick said. “There comes a point in time where you’re like, ‘I don’t know how much taller I’m going to get.’ You just have to learn to embrace it for what it is. It’s driven me my whole career. Maybe it made me go after this quarterback position a little harder.”
Kendrick, who graduated high school in 2017 and spent one semester at College of San Mateo in northern California, sounds as if he has reached the point that he’s grateful he stopped growing before reaching the QB prototype.
“I don’t know if I would have come this far if I were 6-2 or 6-3,” he said. “Maybe I wouldn’t have the work ethic I have now. Maybe I wouldn’t have the determination or the chip on my shoulder I have now. It’s definitely something that’s ingrained in you and drives you every day.”
For one thing, it makes it easier for him to know which NFL quarterback to study. Russell Wilson, winning quarterback in the Seattle Seahawks’ 43-8 blowout of the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl 48, stands 5-11 and weighs 206 pounds. Kendrick is 5-10, 200.
“I like how he carries himself, No. 1, as a man. I like how he leads as a quarterback. I like his energy, his demeanor, his body language and, of course, I just love how he plays,” Kendrick said of Wilson. “Extends the play, makes big throws and when it’s time to make big plays for his team late in the fourth quarter, he’s a guy who does that.”
Winning drives late in fourth quarters became Kendrick’s trademark in high school, according to northern California quarterback guru Adam Tafralis, of Elite 11. Kendrick led Valley Christian High in San Jose to a 13-2 record and an appearance in the state-title game.
Tafralis didn’t want to compare a teenager to a Super Bowl-winning quarterback, but too many common traits from hand size to a winning aura made it unavoidable.
Tafralis almost apologized for doing it, then did it.
“There are a lot of Russell Wilson tendencies,” he said. “So strong, the big hands, the athletic ability, escapability.”
“His hand size makes up for his lack of being 6-4,” Tafralis said. “His ball spins different from everybody else. And when you’re in the shotgun, you’re already six, seven yards back, so you’re not throwing over anybody. You’re throwing through windows.”
Tafralis isn’t the only one Kendrick has learned from on a daily basis. The same could be said of Wilson.
“I probably turn on his highlight tape every day, watch game tape of him every day, because he’s doing it at the highest level,” Kendrick said. “If you’re an undersized guy and you want to have success, I think he’s the No. 1 guy that you should be watching, because he’s a Super Bowl champion and that’s what everyone wants to be. With that ring on his finger, I think that’s the guy you have to pay attention to.”
He even studies Wilson’s leadership style.
“He always talks about positive reinforcement, and that’s what I like to do,” Kendrick said of Wilson. “I like to be positive. I don’t want to break down my teammates. I want to always see the bright side of things, so they can see that it’s not always going to be something negative. What can we do to make this thing positive?”
In high school, Kendrick operated out of a run-first, Wing-T offense, in which just one receiver went out for passes. It took him a few games at San Mateo to win the starting job, and he led the team in the state-championship game.
“I’m sure that being around Miles, the players feel that there is something different about this guy,” Tafralis said. “He’s a winner. Winners win. Just put the ball in his hands and good things happen.”
It all happened so fast at San Mateo, and Kansas was the only four-year school to pursue him. KU defensive line coach Jesse Williams learned of him from the San Mateo coach. KU offensive coordinator Doug Meacham and quarterbacks coach Garrett Riley quickly became involved in recruiting him.
Kendrick will compete for the starting position with the two quarterbacks who split the job last season, Carter Stanley and Peyton Bender.
Stanley is more mobile than Bender, but in that regard, Kendrick looks to have the advantage on both quarterbacks.
“Miles is going to make you miss in a phone booth,” Tafralis said.
It doesn’t take a long chat with Kendrick to appreciate his natural leadership traits. He communicates directly, confidently, intelligently. He believes in himself, but shows that in a way that suggests he won’t have any trouble convincing teammates he believes in them, as well.
His chances of landing the starting job largely will be determined by whether he can convince the coaching staff that he can make all the throws required in the offense. They’ll love his attitude. That won’t be an issue.
“What we’re learning is, he’s quickly earning the respect of his teammates here with his work ethic,” Kansas head coach David Beaty said.
Kendrick has three remaining years of eligibility and hopes to become the first KU quarterback to become a full-time, three-year starter since another sub-6-footer: Todd Reesing.
“I’ve heard that name quite a bit,” Kendrick said. “As soon as I visited, I heard that name: Todd Reesing. I’ve been hearing that name constantly ever since. I immediately looked up his highlights.”
“The guy is everything I’d like to do as far as playing quarterback: Extend the play and make big plays,” Kendrick said. “I think everybody likes to see the guy who can extend the play and stretch the field after he gets outside the pocket. I think I hold some of those abilities.”
You don’t have to be tall to set the bar high.