On the wall of a university of Washington hangout called Shultzy's Sausage, there is a time line of gluttony. Pieter (the Eater) Ostendorf was a big deal back in 1989. His seven sausages on a roll, washed down with nine milks, was a heroic binge for its day. This was well beyond the minimum five sausages required for a citation at Shultzy's. But man's consumption of grilled pork, as the wall explains, is not so much a matter of appetite as it is of competition. Eight sausages, chips and sodas were enjoyed very soon after. Then nine alone, then nine with assorted side dishes and drinks. And then 10, and then 10 in combination. And then....
LINCOLN (BIG DADDY) KENNEDY, IN 60 MINUTES ON 5-1-91, 11 SAUSAGES ON ROLLS, 32 OZ WATER/16 OZ LEMONADE. FIRST TIME IN. NEW CHAMPION.
Someone, someday, may eclipse this tremendous feat. The history of cooked meat tells us that. But it will take a big man, perhaps a man as big as Kennedy, to do it. And Kennedy is 6'7", 325 pounds. It will take a special man. It will take a man with no preexisting heart condition, a man who has never seen sausage being made, a man who somehow forgets himself at the counter and absentmindedly eats six sausages in 10 minutes and discovers he can't cover the tab ("I'm in for, what, 24 bucks?") and must now shoot for the record and—his only hope—the free meal. Perhaps it will take a man just like Kennedy (only more so).
If that is the case, then the record stands because there is nobody just like Lincoln Kennedy. "People like Line?" asks Keith Gilbertson, Kennedy's line coach at Washington until he took the head job at Cal this year. "You mean on this planet?" There is nobody so huge, nobody so fast, nobody so genial, nobody so curious about the world around him. There is nobody who is on everyone's preseason All-America team and yet can go days without talking or thinking college football (but not one minute without talking or thinking). Kennedy is in that small category of people who have had a nervous breakdown at 13, a national championship season at 20 and absolute maturity somewhere in between. Anybody like him? Anybody who shows visitors around campus and stops before a glass case to show, not a trophy from last year's championship, but a puppet he made for a drama class? Who carries a playbook around that has in it...a play?
"I know," he says, "I confuse people."
Kennedy, overshadowed the past couple of years by Husky stars like defensive tackle Steve Hint man and wideout Mario Bailey, will be receiving more attention this season than most offensive tackles usually get. He is the best player on what was most recently the country's best team. Watching him hurl his bulk around, there wouldn't seem to be anything confusing about him. It's all physics: mass, velocity and force. What's confusing about that?
He certainly didn't seem all that complicated when he went to Washington as a freshman from San Diego. When he showed up on campus weighing 344 pounds, he was, shall we say, roundly hailed. Not only was he more dead presidents in any one place this side of Mount Rushmore, he was the largest man ever to wear a Husky uniform. Somewhat endomorphic—nobody would call him fat, exactly—his distinction was entirely physical. If he was going to terrorize anybody, it would be restaurateurs.
But Kennedy's coaches saw a little something else. They ignored his first 40-yard dash, in which Kennedy ran more like Dukakis (he stumbled badly at the start). Kennedy had always had trouble accommodating his feet; one year he was held out of his high school's first four varsity games because the school could not provide size-17 cleats. Gilbertson, at least, recognized the potential of this so-called defensive tackle and lusted after him. "If you're thinking of moving any of these guys to offense," he told coach Don James, "I'd like to have that one."
James obliged, and by his sophomore season Kennedy was down to 325, was splitting time at tackle and guard, and was voted second-team Pac-10. In his junior year, during the Huskies' undefeated season, Kennedy continued to amaze. He was named the Pac-10's top offensive lineman and was picked on several All-America teams.
Kennedy was so intimidating last season that opposing coaches often conceded the position by matching their weakest player against him, a "laydown." Says Gilbertson, who must now contend with him as an opponent, "People aren't going to line up against him and get anything done. They'd put a guy out there in front of him. It was, if he's gonna block somebody, it might as well be you.'"