Since then, the careers of Williams and Kennedy have gone in different directions, but another second chance has brought the two together in Minnesota.
The Vikings eventually drafted Williams with the ninth pick. Kennedy went to the St. Louis Rams three picks later. While Williams was working himself into a Pro Bowl and All-Pro player, Kennedy was garnering only five starts and 18 tackles in his first two seasons.
But Kennedy says he has learned a lot in five-plus years. Mainly, he isn't about to listen to and read what the media has to say about him, good or bad.
"I've learned that I've got to play this game and do what I can and not let the media influence what I'm doing," Kennedy said. "You said a lot of ups and downs, and I don't see any downs. In the locker room a lot goes on. On the field a lot goes on and you guys in the media will make calls on it, whether it was right or wrong. I just learned from that as a youngster, not letting that stuff bother me, whether it's true or not, most of the stuff not being true.
"Whether the media is pumping you up or taking you down, as a youngster, as a young player in there, you can't let that affect you."
But now Kennedy is in his sixth year. After four years with the Rams, he played three games with the Chicago Bears last year and played in six games for the Jacksonville Jaguars this year before being released.
With Kevin and Pat Williams being suspended for four games, the Vikings felt fortunate that Kennedy was available. Now that the Williamses had those suspensions put on hold, at least temporarily, Kennedy was not even active when the team traveled to Detroit and may not be again this weekend when they travel to Arizona.
If and when Kennedy is active for the Vikings, at least he has a bit of experience in the Vikings' Tampa-2 system. He said Penn State got its defense from Lovie Smith during the coach's days in Tampa Bay. Then Smith became the coordinator in St. Louis in Kennedy's rookie season, and his stint last year in Chicago was under Smith as a head coach.
He can also play Kevin Williams' "three-technique" and even played some defensive end in Jacksonville. Despite all the different systems, coaches and techniques being taught to him, Kennedy indicated that the main thing was that he gives effort.
"When it's all said and done, it's still football. Coach won't be mad at you if you mess up an assignment if you destroy the guy in front of you. It's like, ‘Aw, he messed up, but look how he killed that guard,'" he said. "…Whether Kevin and those guys are up, I need to know my stuff."
It's a different atmosphere in Minnesota since the days that Kennedy took a predraft visit here and Kennedy was a different person – "I was in a different mindset then," he says – but as he looked at his options during his latest trip to being a street free agent, he said Minnesota was once again a good possibility.
"I think this team really has a chance to make a run for it. I want to come up here and help and work with my boy Kev. We have the same agent and stuff and we've worked out together. I've got a lot of respect for him and Pat and I've heard some things about Coach (Karl) Dunbar," he said.
Mostly, though, Kennedy is focused on getting better and not worrying about the outside distractions.
"You have some guys that will read their press clippings, whether it's good or bad it can affect them in some ways – whether it's Jimmy Kennedy is a bust or Jimmy Kennedy is the next best thing since sliced bread. It's just not letting that stuff bother you," he said.
So who is Jimmy Kennedy now?
"Jimmy Kennedy is a man of faith who works hard and is an NFL football player."