A little while ago, some friends of Kenny Willekes started noticing he had a likeness to Friday Night Lights star Tim Riggins.
It kept spreading and, eventually, it stuck for the Grand Rapids (Mich.) NorthPointe Christian linebacker.
”A couple of my friends started saying, ‘Hey, you look at lot like Tim Riggins,” Willekes said. “More and more people from different schools that don’t even know each other started saying it, so it stuck around and caught.”
On the field, his play also mirrors that of the character played by actor Taylor Kitsch in the five-season long TV series.
”(We are) very similar,” he said. “We both run downhill and love contact.”
”I was close to committing to Wayne State actually then Minnesota came in an offered me a preferred walk on and I was thinking I would like to do that,” Willekes said. “Then I talked to Coach Staten and he just asked me what are you doing for college. He assumed I would be a MAC offer and I told him I was planning on walking on at Minnesota. He said if you are going to walk on somewhere, come walk on here. Me and my family talked about it.
”I always wanted to play for Michigan State and it’s a lot closer to Minnesota, so it was a pretty easy decision for me.”
The decision came pretty quickly for Willekes, who said he waited for Minnesota to come into the school and heard the Gophers out before finalizing his decision.
“In my mind, I had made it,” he said, "but Minnesota still had to came in and I heard what they had to say and then made my decision the next day.”
Willekes said part of the decision was from growing up a Michigan State fan since he was young, as well as how they develop players. But coming in as a walk-on, a big element for him was the fact MSU gives opportunities to walk-ons.
”They said I am the only MIKE linebacker I’m bringing in in this class because they don’t have a scholarship one,” he said. ”A lot of people say walk-ons don’t get all the reps, but they weren’t offering a MIKE linebacker and I know I have what it takes to play there.”
Willekes, like Riggins, also was a bruising running back. He amassed more than 1,400 yards rushing, while accumulating 162 tackles. He finished his three-year varsity career with 423 tackles and a high motor is something he says he brings to a football team.
“My high motor is definitely one of them and just my football knowledge and my ability to find the ball and always going 100 percent,” he said. “I always end up at the ball. That and then my leadership. Since we are a smaller school, we have a lot of players that I helped coach up on the field.”