But if Kennedy is finally appreciated, he remains little understood. His coaches have a vague idea that Kennedy enjoys a life outside football, that he has "people skills'" as well as football skills. "There is something about him," says Steve Morton, his new line coach, "that tells you he'll be successful with people. I mean, I'm new here, but I'm still the coach. Yet Lincoln comes up to me, throws his arm around my shoulders and says. 'Don't worry, Coach. Just follow me.' "
Still, wouldn't his coaches be surprised if, during a lull in the X's and O's, Kennedy reached his huge hand into his pocket and withdrew a neatly typewritten poem? What if this happy-go-lucky 325-pounder, the team's co-captain, began reciting: "I have no true identity, therefore I have no world of my own, and therefore I have no life...." Would they be confused?
What is disturbing is not that Kennedy writes gloomy verse (the foregoing was written after a professor delivered what Kennedy took to be a racial slight) but that he dabbles in poetry at all. Where did he find time outside the weight room to write that, anyway (never mind the full-length stage play he's working on)? What might disturb his coaches the most is that Kennedy barely considers himself a football player. Not that he is indifferent to the game; whether he is challenged by a Shakespearean monologue or a safety blitz, he responds totally. No, with Kennedy, football is exactly like a Shultzy's sausage: He has no particular hunger for it, but if he works at it hard enough, the bill will be taken care of.
"In high school," he says, "I came to realize that football could give me an education at a top university. And I'm using this university for everything it can give me. I realize that I've got a chance to play professionally, which is the fastest, easiest way to make a lot of money that I know of." In order to do what? "To pay people back, start a theater group, teach kids."
Are you confused?
There is a famous piece of film from Kennedy's sophomore season at Washington, when he played a few downs at offensive guard. Kennedy pulls out (his feet are much better organized than they used to be), runs downfield and decimates a significant portion of the defense. Seeing that, it is difficult to imagine that he is not a born football player. But he never played until a coach talked him into trying out for the varsity during his sophomore year of high school. Until then his involvement with football was limited to the half-time show. He played trumpet in the band.
When Kennedy was finally lured onto the held, and outfitted with proper footwear, his mother, Hope Johnson, was stunned. "We had never discussed football," she says. "He was always in drama, choir and band, never in sports. He had grown so tall and was so uncoordinated, always falling over his feet, that sports seemed a huge risk. I wasn't going to let my baby on a football field." So when Kennedy asked his mom to come to the game to watch him, she assumed he had a trumpet solo during the halftime show.
Isn't this how all top draft choices begin their careers?
The sad fact is that Kennedy pursued his various activities—football, drama, choir—because things were not going well at home between his parents. "I just wanted to keep out of the house," he says. Drama club, and later the city-sponsored Teen Connection, which staged antidrug programs in San Diego, gave him a chance to join some kind of family, "to be a part of things," to disappear into the ensemble.
Kennedy claims to remember, in dramatic detail, the fight that drove his parents apart. He was two. "My door was open, and I could hear their shouting, see their shadows moving about the room." His mother's divorce from her husband, Tamerlane Kennedy (which is Lincoln's real name), was, as far as Lincoln was concerned, strictly a temporary thing. He lived with his grandmother in Pennsylvania until his mother remarried and brought him back to San Diego. At the age of seven he met this stubborn obstacle to his plans for a reunified family—his stepfather, Robert Johnson.