The best thing about being a left tackle," says Pete Kendall of
Boston College, "is shutting down your opponent and not letting
him get anywhere near your quarterback." The 6'5", 287-pound
fifth-year senior leans back in his chair in the dining area of
BC's Conte Forum and steals a glance at the Muppet characters
frolicking on a big-screen TV 10 feet away. As Kermit and
friends sing about being nice and respecting others, Kendall's
blue eyes flicker for a moment. "No, wait," he says,
reconsidering. "Shutting down your opponent is the second-best
thing. The best thing is telling your opponent he's not getting
anywhere near your quarterback."
Nice? Respectful? When it comes to being neighborly on the
football field, Kendall is the barbed-wire fence and the barking
dog. "Look, if I didn't jaw, I wouldn't play as well," he says.
"When I tell an opponent he left his pass rush at the airport,
that makes him step up his game, and that puts more pressure on
me. I thrive under that pressure. But I try to make sure there
are no hard feelings."
Sometimes, alas, there are. After the Miami game last year, one
Hurricane was so irritated by Kendall's smack that he grabbed a
yard marker and chased Kendall into the tunnel before being cut
off by the crowd. "People like Pete Kendall are the catalysts
for great performances for themselves, their teammates and their
opponents," says BC coach Dan Henning. "Back in the '60s,
Muhammad Ali was the catalyst that brought out the best in
everybody. I tell Pete he better be able to back up what he says."
Fortunately, the All-America candidate does put his massive body
where his mouth is. With Kendall anchoring one of the best
offensive lines in the country, the Eagles outgained 11 of their
12 opponents last year, amassing 1,904 yards on the ground and
2,249 in the air. Kendall didn't give up a single sack, a fact
that was not lost on the Big East, which named him first-team
all-conference, or on BC junior quarterback Mark Hartsell's
mother, who phoned her son to express her relief when she heard
that Kendall had decided to stay in Chestnut Hill instead of
declaring for the NFL draft.
"With Pete and this offensive line in front of me," says
Hartsell, "I can drop back without one worry. I think his
confidence gives me and everybody else on the team confidence."
How confident is Kendall? While Hartsell discusses plays in the
huddle, Kendall often stands up and addresses the other team.
"This game is over," Kendall says. At the line of scrimmage he
gets more personal: "The ball's coming right at you, buddy, and
you can't do anything about it."
Steve Aborn, Kendall's line coach at Archbishop Williams High in
Braintree, Mass., can sum up Kendall in four words. "I told you
so," says Aborn. "He never says that, he just embodies it."
Aborn used to keep in his office a black-and-white photo taken
around the time Kendall first announced to the Williams coaching
staff that he would be earning a Division I football
scholarship. The picture shows Kendall at about 14, a 6'1",
140-pound sapling in a jayvee basketball uniform. In the ensuing
years, whenever Aborn sensed that one of his players was
concerned about his lack of size, he would pull out that photo
of Kendall and dangle it before the adolescent like an amulet.
"Pete is the American dream," says Aborn, who no longer has the
photograph because Kendall eventually found it and ripped it up.
"He is an example of what you can do if you take something
seriously and work hard enough at it."
Kendall started out at Division 4 Williams as a jayvee
quarterback. "He had an arm like a cannon," says Aborn. "But he
also had a nasty streak, and we knew from looking at his dad
[Pete, a 6'5", 290-pound cop] that he was going to be big. We
weren't going to waste all of that on a quarterback."
So Kendall shifted first to backup tight end, then to defensive
and offensive lineman. He worked on technique, lifted weights
through basketball and baseball seasons and "kept his mouth
shut," says Aborn. By the time he made his first start, midway
through his junior year, Kendall was 6'4", 198 pounds and ready
to rumble. "Pete is the kind of guy who, after making a block,
will run down the field looking for someone else to hit," Aborn
Stressed out by an endless stream of recruiters--and bothered by
a mysterious infection--Kendall lost 30 pounds as a senior. "You
start to develop a relationship with each of these coaches, and
at 17 you don't want to let anyone down," he says. In the end
his choice was between Notre Dame and BC. Lou Holtz showed up
for breakfast; ex-Giant assistant and newly hired BC coach Tom
Coughlin called from the Super Bowl. But Kendall was impressed
by Coughlin's steely intensity, which is not unlike his own. "I
know I could have played anywhere," Kendall says. "But wherever
I play, I expect to win."
And you can be sure he's prepared to back that up.
COLOR PHOTO: BRUCE L. SCHWARTZMAN Whether as a blocker or a talker, Kendall knows how to fire up a crowd, an opponent and Boston College all at once. [Pete Kendall]