ASU football woven into Kohl family fabric

Arizona State junior tight end/3-back Kody Kohl is the third member of his immediate family to play football at the school, but just as importantly he plays for the name that may adorn more t-shirts on game days than any other.

Arizona State junior tight end Kody Kohl will be the first person to admit he was extremely immature as a freshman in 2012.

The second would be his older brother, Trevor Kohl, who played tight end for ASU from 2009 to 2011 under former ASU head coach Dennis Erickson and offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone.

“I think he (Kody) was kind of the man in high school and at any college Division I program, every kid that was on the team was the man at their high school,” said Trevor Kohl. “So I think when he first got to ASU, he went in with the illusion he was still going to be top dog and really on top of everybody, but what it came down to was he was able to see that a lot of players were actually really good and that kind of helped humble him.”

Three years later, Kody is the face of a humble, talented, and grounded player. This preseason, ASU quarterback Mike Bercovici described Kody as “extremely dynamic,” and “a hard worker,” just as Trevor describes Kody as a true blue-collar athlete.

After ASU’s Thursday practice, head coach Todd Graham went as far to say Kody has the potential to have a breakout year.

“The other thing I’ll tell you I’m excited about in our passing game is Kody and I’m not going to lie to you, that surprised me,” Graham said. “I thought Kody was a solid tight end. He just improved so much in the offseason and this spring. So much faster, so much better route running. I really think he has the potential to have a breakout year.”

As of late, Kody has been one of the players consistently staying late after practice to get one-on-one time with Bercovici and develop their budding chemistry.

However, with or without the extra reps after practice, without question Kohl is the most experienced ASU tight end entering the season.

Since sophomore Grant Martinez is not practicing due an ankle sprain sustained early in fall camp ,and the three newcomers – junior college transfer Raymond Epps, true freshman Tommy Hudson and two-way athlete Jay Jay Wilson – are still learning the ropes, Kohl figures to be far and away the most heavily relied upon player in the group.

“He (Kohl) is a leader,” Epps said. “He knows what he’s doing. I like that a lot. He helps us a lot. He’s like a second coach basically.”

In the offseason, Kohl said he got faster and more powerful and the biggest emblem of his training has been in practice by not falling off blocks and actually beating defenders on routes.

Having already traveled a similar path, Trevor can easily identify the personal leaps Kody has made over the years that have turned the 6-foot-3, 225-pound player into an emerging leader.

One of the biggest “growing up” moments in Kody’s life was his change in attitude towards schooling. Graduating from Mesquite High School in Gilbert, Ariz., Kody said school wasn’t a big focus; instead the importance of education in his life really didn’t kick in until college.

“I didn’t take care of school and stuff (in high school) and by the time I got here, they forced it upon me,” Kody said. “Now I realize how important school is so I would just say growing up is my biggest improvement so far.”

In addition to improving on the education front, Kody has greatly improved his football skills. Kody finished fourth on the ASU offense last year with 16 catches for 167 yards and four touchdowns, and during the offseason, he said he improved his route running even more than in years past, allowing him to be more active in the offense.

While he has improved his passing game, Kody said his favorite part of playing in ASU offensive coordinator Mike Norvell’s offense is the ability to do the dirty work on the field by blocking and allowing his teammates to break plays.

“I’m real excited about Kody,” ASU tight ends coach Chip Long said. “He had a great spring and he carried it over in the summer. He did a great job in the weight room. He’s got his strength back. Last year, a lot of people didn’t realize with his shoulder, that he didn’t have full gain of strength and now he’s got it. (He’s got) a year under his belt so he’s extremely confident, playing a really high level and his speed has increased about three times.”

While Kody’s football skills are something to be proud of, Trevor said he’s especially proud of how Kody is representing their family.

When it came around to committing to a college, Kody had no offers prior to attending ASU’s one-day camp on June 12, 2011, but after a standout performance, Kohl was offered on the spot.

After Kohl talked to his brother and his father about the decision, that was all he needed. Kohl would follow in their footsteps and verbally commit to be a Sun Devil just four days later.

Growing up in Gilbert, both Kody and Trevor are hometown products coming from a very strong football background. By both playing for ASU, they carry on the tradition of their dad Matthew Kohl, who played for the Sun Devils in 1982.

“Football is pretty much a family function,” Matthew Kohl said. “I coached all three of my boys for fourteen years in Pop Warner so they pretty much grew up playing it and had the love for the game. They were lucky to do well at it and to play college ball so it’s pretty exciting to watch them be grown men and do well, move out of the nest, and live on their own.”

However, living on their own doesn’t mean the Kohl brothers are ever far away from their family. According to Kody, Matthew Kohl and Kody’s mom Danette have had ASU season tickets for the past seven years and always make the effort to come to every game at Sun Devil Stadium.

Last year, the family even had t-shirts made with Kody’s name on them and just counting family alone, 160 shirts were made.

“The thing that (ASU head) coach (Todd) Graham said the other day was that the name on the back (of the jersey) is more important than the name on the front and he said most teams say the opposite and found that true and I found that amazing we find it the other way as every other team,” Kody said. “I mean my family comes to see me and I’m representing them and so it’s a privilege to kind of set a standard for our family name.”

Representing his family even further, Kody has a tattoo on his chest over his heart with his mom’s name etched into his skin -- a constant reminder of both his mom and family’s importance in his life.

“I guess he’s a momma’s boy,” Matthew Kohl said. “He loves his mom and it’s a great honor for her.”

While the softer side of Kody comes out when speaking about his family, he’s all business on game day and is especially looking forward to ASU’s opener against Texas A&M on Sept. 5.

As for all the hype surrounding the game, Kody said it doesn’t faze him. Instead, the hype is what fuels his fire on the field. He said he loves the pressure when people are yelling at him and talking smack and said if Texas A&M decides to do just that, “that’s their fault.”

“My mindset is just do everything correctly,” Kohl said. “Just go out there and destroy them. Don’t think and just go. 100 miles per hour and I want them to feel our pain after we’re done with them. I want them to regret having us scheduled. I want them to hurt after we play them.”

Thursday Notes

  • Junior linebacker Laiu Moeakiola was back with the first team defense at Spur on Thursday after being more limited Wednesday to work on some extra conditioning drills with his left ankle taped up.

  • Still in a green jersey, junior college transfer Tim White was back to wearing a bulkier cast on his left hand Thursday after having it lightly wrapped on Wednesday. White worked in the individual period but reporters didn't see him on the field with the first or second team in 11-on-11 in the tempo session.

  • Junior wide receiver Fred Gammage was working with the second team offense during the team period Thursday after taking off the green jersey a couple days prior.

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