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Kendra living nightmare of season

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Posted: Saturday January 02, 1999 07:27 PM

  Turnabout: Once heralded as one of the nation's most highly sought-after quarterback recruits, Kendra likely will finish his career as a fullback Scott Halleran/Allsport

By B.J. Schecter, Sports Illustrated

TEMPE, Ariz. -- As his teammates strutted around Sun Devil Stadium, Dan Kendra sat in the stands off to the side and by himself. In front of him was the perfectly manicured field where the Seminoles will battle Tennessee for the national championship on Monday, but Kendra couldn't look. He sat there stone-faced, his thoughts thousands of miles away.

Rewind to last April when Florida State was Kendra's team. The senior quarterback waited four years for his chance, and as he entered spring practice there was little doubt Kendra would be the starter. He was bubbling with confidence and refused to let coaches put the traditional green jersey on him, signifying he was not to be hit. Kendra could take hits, he wanted to be hit.

During the spring game Kendra took one hit which ended his career as a Florida State quarterback. It was a rollout play and Kendra stopped to plant when was hit from the side. He felt a tear, followed by an intense burning sensation. His initial reaction: "I felt some pain but it wasn't that bad," he says. "When they told me I had to go to the hospital, I was upset because I was supposed to drive to Tampa and watch my girlfriend play volleyball. I didn't think it was that serious."

It turned out to be the beginning of what has been a nightmarish season. Doctors told Kendra he tore the ACL in his right knee and the cocky, outgoing boy wonder from Bethlehem, Penn., hasn't been the same since. He spends his days and nights thinking about what could have been. Bring up the Fiesta Bowl and Kendra shakes his head.

"This is torture," he says. "I'm happy we're here but it should be me out there. I should be leading the charge out on the field. I've always been the type of person where as long as my body is OK, I'm OK. We'll my body isn't OK, and I'm having a hard time dealing with it."

Kendra spent most of the year separated from his teammates. While the team practiced, Kendra was in rehab. And game days, they were unbearable. He didn't travel with the team and rarely went to home games. He'd try to watch most games from his apartment, but often he found himself changing the channel.

"My life was thrown out of balance and I'm desperately trying to get it back," Kendra says. "My knee is still not 100 percent and I'm working as hard as I can to get it back. I want to play so bad. I dream of the time when I can come back in after a game and hit the showers all sweaty, feeling like I made a contribution to the team."

Next year Kendra hopes to come back as a fullback. He's petitioned the NCAA for a sixth year of eligibility and feels at 6 feet, 1 inch and 256 pounds, possessing 4.42 speed and immense strength, he's better suited to that position.

When starting quarterback Chris Weinke was lost for the year after injuring his neck against Wake Forest on Nov. 14, offensive coordinator Mark Richt asked Kendra if he wanted to come back. Kendra was tempted but knew he wasn't ready. So sophomore Marcus Outzen will try and lead the Seminoles to their second national championship in five years, something Kendra has difficulty accepting.

"I look at what some of our quarterbacks have gone through this year and I compare it to what I went though," says Kendra. "I got my butt kicked for three years and they walk right into a job. Where's the justice in that?"

Kendra turns to his left and sees coach Bobby Bowden, Peter Warrick and Outzen surrounded by hoards of reporters. He stares for a second and imagines himself in their position. "That could have been me," he whispers. "That should have been me."

Sports Illustrated writer-reporter B.J. Schecter will file daily reports from the Fiesta Bowl for CNNSI.com.

 
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