Up Close: Joe Kedra

<I>Inside Carolina</i> recruiting writer Andy Britt is touring the countryside to visit each UNC football commitment. Look for his unique two-part profiles all season long. Today – linebacker Joe Kedra.

CHERRY HILL, N.J. -- Immediately after Nebraska defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Craig Bohl paid a visit to Camden Catholic High School and saw film of Joe Kedra, he asked if he could use head coach Dennis Scuderi's telephone.

"I was right there," said Scuderi, a 25-year South Jersey coaching veteran. "He called [Nebraska head coach Frank Solich] from my office, and they offered him right then and there."

On October 7, Kedra chose the Tar Heels over the Cornhuskers and 20-plus other Division I schools, including historical college football icons such as Notre Dame and Penn State.

"It got real hectic with the phone calls," Kedra said. "I knew it was between Penn State and Carolina, so I just wanted to get it over with; not that I rushed my decision or anything.

"With big schools like that, it was hard to make a decision," he said. "Basically, it just came down to who I was the most comfortable with – that's who I'm going to have to live with for the next four or five years."

It was during visits to Chapel Hill when he bonded with Skip Seagraves, Daunte Fields and other UNC players that ultimately influenced his decision.

"I went out with a bunch of the players while I was down there and felt real comfortable with everyone," Kedra said.

A tackling machine, Kedra is averaging an amazing 19 stops per game for the 7-0 Fighting Irish.

"He's the best defensive football player I have ever coached," said Scuderi.

The priest who serves as the school's headmaster admits he doesn't know a whole lot about football. However on Thursday, Father Martin emphasized what a vicious hitter he is.

To meet the soft-spoken Kedra, one might be surprised to hear of his storied savagery on the football field. According to his coach, he literally undergoes a Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde-type transformation from student to athlete.

"When he gets on the football field, he is a mean kid," Scuderi said. "He's mild-mannered and meek until he puts his helmet on, and then he is all out. Everything he does is 100 percent.

"He is just very tenacious."

Kedra says that playing linebacker just comes to him instinctively. As a junior, he was in on 189 tackles, including two sacks, two forced fumbles, a fumble recovery and five interceptions – four of which he returned for touchdowns.

"I just react," he said. "I seem to have a nose for the football."

Provided UNC strength and conditioning coach Jeff Connors and his staff can add a few pounds to his lanky 6-foot-4, 223-pound frame, Kedra could be able to make an impact on the rebuilding Tar Heel defense quickly.

And although Kedra bore witness to disappointing losses to Georgia Tech and NC State while in Kenan Stadium recently, he said his commitment remains firm despite Carolina's wretched 2-7 record.

"Every team starts over," he said. "They are rebuilding and they have a lot of young players on the team this year, and they have a lot of good players coming in with my class. In the next couple of years, we will be on the rise."

Stay tuned for Part II tomorrow…

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