MOSCOW, Idaho – Fifty years from now, Logan Kendall may tell his grandchildren about the touchdown he scored against Penn State. But he is under no illusion about his primary role with the Idaho Vandals.
“Blocking is pretty much why I came here. That’s why they recruited me, to hit people,” Kendall said.
The sophomore tight end and fullback looks every bit as big as the media guide’s listing of 6-foot-4, 264 pounds.
“He’s a really good, tenacious blocker. He plays this game like you want to play football,” Idaho coach Paul Petrino said.
After the Vandals beat 2018 Football Championship Subdivision runner-up Eastern Washington 35-27, Idaho All-America guard Noah Johnson lauded Kendall for not merely shielding Eagles defenders but knocking them off their feet. It was high praise from a distinguished member of the fraternity.
“It’s awesome getting a compliment from Noah. He’s a great player,” Kendall said.
This is emblematic of how Kendall fits in with his teammates and his university as comfortably as he accepts his identity. He and former Vandals linebacker Ty Graham were Cheney High School teammates. Graham, who transferred from Idaho last spring to play his senior season with the hometown Eagles, gave Kendall a heads-up about Idaho.
Kendall attended a UI summer camp and was offered a scholarship after his junior year.
“I fell in love with the place,” Kendall said. “I love everything about it … I love how Coach ‘P’ is old school. It’s all about hard work. My dad kind of brought me up like that.”
To play for Petrino is to get a dose of pointed instruction every practice. Kendall is sure there is more to it than that.
“Coach ‘P’ genuinely loves every player on this team. I truly believe that,” he said.
As a sophomore, Kendall can look forward to several more games at Idaho, which takes some of the frustration away from the record (2-5, 0-3 Big Sky Conference) that the Vandals are dragging around with them.
“I want to get a ring,” he said. “It can happen here. I truly believe so.”
A six-point loss to fourth-ranked Weber State, in a game that came down to the final minute, and a similarly close 21-16 loss at Wyoming, of the Football Bowl Subdivision Mountain West Conference, outweigh the discouragement of falling short in winnable league games at Northern Colorado and Portland State.
“I think we’re super close (to being a winning team). We showed it against Wyoming and Weber State,” Kendall said. “We’ve got to stop beating ourselves.”
Hopes for a Big Sky title and playoff berth this season are fading rapidly. Nonetheless, Kendall is fully invested in this Vandals’ venture.
“We can’t let guys start thinking we are only playing for stats now,” Kendall said.
Through seven games, Kendall has augmented his value as a blocker to the Vandals with eight pass receptions for 78 yards and the touchdown against the Nittany Lions, Idaho’s only points in a 79-7 opening-game shellacking.
With the game out of reach for the Vandals in the fourth quarter, David Eppinger recovered a fumbled punt for the Vandals at the PSU 25. Idaho quarterback Mason Petrino struck quickly with a 24-yard pass to freshman running back Nick Romano. On the next play, from the 1-yard line, he finished the series by finding Kendall in the end zone.
“It was wild walking into the stadium,” he said of playing in front of 104,527 people. “It was like what you see on TV. To experience it was awesome.”
Matching up with a defensive end, Yetur Gross-Matos, “who is going to be drafted in the first four rounds,” was also a highlight.
For a guy with Kendall’s background, the fundamental satisfaction of playing football exists just as much in a Big Sky game or even at a scrimmage in an empty Kibbie Dome as it does in a packed Big 10 stadium with a nationally ranked opponent. For a hitter, hitting is hitting.
“At the end of the day, it’s still a football game,” he said. “Eleven-on-11, just playing. Everything’s the same. You are just playing the game you love.”
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