Lincoln Kennedy Adjusts to his post-NFL life

For Lincoln Kennedy there was a precise moment when he knew that retirement was at hand. It came while he and his Oakland Raiders were playing on Monday Night Football last December. They were up against the Green Bay Packers and the inspired play of QB Brett Favre.

"I was already playing in pain," said Kennedy this week to Dawgman.com. "And then against Green Bay, in the second to the last game of the year, I tore my triceps. I said to myself, 'that's it I'm done.' I'm not going to try to kid anybody."

But in the last couple of seasons, Kennedy felt the end of his NFL career was steadily drawing near.

"It's basically been in the works for awhile," he reflected. "Football has always been about the challenge, and I felt that I had met that challenge. I am a free spirit and can get bored easily, and I felt I had met all the challenges and had gotten bored with football. I also noticed that my body began taking longer to heal up. You suddenly realize that you can't do the same things you used to do. For example, I'm at a point where I have trouble holding my arms over my head as in a touchdown signal. It's the rigors of professional football."

Our conversation turned to Husky football, and Lincoln began to laugh. In a prior interview for the December 2003 issue of Sports Washington magazine, Kennedy had described the lingering bitterness that the 1993 UW sanctions experience had left with him. His feeling at the time was that when the Pac-10 and NCAA began slinging the arrows of trumped-up charges toward the football program, the University of Washington's upper campus had shied away from defending the Husky coaches and athletes.

Said Kennedy in the 2003 SW interview: "It left a bad taste. And I'm not close to the program because of it. I'm still bothered by it. That's why when there is a BYE week with the Raiders I don't go up there (Seattle) to games. I felt like the University turned its back on me, so I will turn my back on them. Let's just say that a certain someone up there needs to step down before I can consider feeling close to the program again."

Lincoln has kept in touch over the years with Husky coach Keith Gilbertson. They spoke recently on the evening of March 1st, after Lincoln returned from an extended vacation out of the country. It was only in talking with Gilbertson that Lincoln first learned that Barbara Hedges had departed as Athletic Director of the University of Washington back in mid-January. Lincoln implied that he was surprised to hear this news, and that speaking with Gilbertson felt good. I then asked Lincoln if he would now consider reconnecting with the football program.

"I'm thinking of coming up," said Kennedy with some lightness in his voice. "I'm now giving some thought to coming up and seeing some games."

I then asked him, if Greg Lewis of the Big W Club were to arrange for him to be announced as a Husky Legend, would Lincoln be willing? Lincoln didn't know what in the world I was talking about, so I explained that for the last few years, a former Husky is introduced at the end of the third quarter for all home football games.

"Is that right?" asked Lincoln inquisitively before starting to laugh again. "As I told you before, I have put a lot of distance between the program and I!"

I had stumbled upon a 1992 feature in Sports Illustrated of Lincoln Kennedy. Therein was a reference to an eating contest of sorts that took place in 1990, during which Lincoln had obliterated from history the name and eating record of one Pieter "The Eater" Ostendorf. I knew that it was simply too good of a topic of conversation not to bring up to him. Lincoln burst out laughing when I mentioned this.

"I don't know if it is still there, but there was a little sausage place on the south side of the Ave (University Avenue), a little hole in the wall called Shultzy's," said Lincoln, still chuckling. "It was my sophomore year, and (former Husky) Siupeli Malamala started going there for lunch. They made their own sausages and they had a deal where if you could break their eating record, you would get the meal for free.

"One day I had a sausage, and I looked and saw Supe's name on their Wall of Fame. The owner there then challenged me to try to break the record, which was 10 or 10 ½ (sausages on big bread rolls). So I got up to 6 or 7, and I'm getting pretty full. I'm suddenly thinking, the bread they are serving these on is pretty thick. If I don't hit this record, how am I gonna pay for this? So I got up to 9, and I am thinking OK now I'm getting sick. But for pride, I gotta get through this . . . Now there's a crowd that has gathered around, and people are cheering and whatnot. I finally get to 11 and I get the record. People were coming up to me, and meanwhile I can feel it all coming back up on me as they're congratulating me. Then I went running into the bathroom and I threw it all up. The last I heard a few years ago, my record was still in place."

So after three Rose Bowl appearances, one national championship, after The Sporting News and Lindy's naming him college football's best offensive lineman, after only surrendering 2 sacks in his entire college career, after one Super Bowl appearance, after three trips to the Pro Bowl and after an illustrious NFL career now completed, what is next for Lincoln Kennedy?

"I definitely still have the desire to start a theatre group for children," said Lincoln. "I think first I have to decide where to make my home. It's not just a matter of buying a condo or town home, but of settling into an actual home. I will need to decide where I will lay my head. I have a few places in mind that I'm considering."

And is Seattle one of the places being considered?
"Yes. Seattle's one of the places I'm considering. I really liked it up there."
Derek Johnson can be reached at uwsundodger@msn.com

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