It takes a special kind of nose tackle to pull off backflips at 6-foot, 275 pounds. Fifth-year Kenneth Kirksey can pull one off whenever he wants, but instead saves it for special moments.
Kirksey flips after every victory, even if there are 10,000 students storming the field after beating Michigan. He does it based on advice from a high-school mentor.
“I used to always do backflips,” Kirksey said. “I’m energetic like that. I used to do them after practice and stuff. [My coach] told me, ‘make it special. Make it a special moment.’”
One of Kirksey’s coaches -- Daytona Beach (Fla.) Mainland offensive line coach Eric Chojnowski -- serves as the inspiration for the backflip. Chojnowski passed away in 2009.
“Before he passed away, a couple games before, he was like ‘don’t ever stop doing that,’” Kirksey said. “I always do a backflip after every win in memory of Coach C.”
What does it look like when 275 pounds of muscle backflips? Skip to the two-minute mark.
Kirksey enjoys the fun of a victory, but it does not take away from his focus leading into kickoff against Indiana.
“He’s shifty,” Kirksey said. “That’s the one thing. He’s shifty. It’s all with the offensive line. If the offensive line doesn’t do their job, we’re going to eat him up.”
Quarterback Zander Diamont enters his fourth game as the starter after two interceptions in the loss to Penn State. Kirksey hopes the Rutgers defensive line creates the same issues.
“Compress the pocket – we have to tackle the quarterback at all times. … He’s young, yes, but he’s very talented as well. In my opinion, he doesn’t like to get tackled. He’s playing better in every game in my opinion. Like I said before, we’ve got to get after him. We’ve got to hit him. We’ve got to make him quit.”
Senior day honors take place prior to kickoff against Indiana. Technically undecided on a fifth year, Kirksey looks forward to his moment Saturday in front of the fans.
“That’s the whole point of being a senior, you have to have that special day just for the seniors,” Kirksey said. “It's a special game, the last game of the season in that stadium. I think it's kind of special.
“I want to be remembered a hard, physical guy that can do a back flip,” Kirksey said. “I always practice hard and work hard. I want to be remembered as that dominant player at Rutgers, one of the greatest.”