Greyhounds senior captain Mike Kennedy is not the type of person who looks for sympathy or pity about his plight, a strong characteristic not usually found in such a young man, as he stands on the sideline with crutches supporting his six-foot, 215-pound frame.
Kennedy tore his ACL in a preseason scrimmage against Wilby and his dream of playing his senior year and one final game against Ansonia on Thanksgiving Day was lost in an instant.
No one ever really knows what life has in store, until one day the rug is ripped from under your feet. It’s in those times that a man’s true character comes to the forefront.
You have choices to make. You can be angry, you can look to blame or you can wallow in self-pity. Then there is the Mike Kennedy approach. You can move on and accept life’s next challenge.
“Sometimes things happen for a reason,” Kennedy said. “You don’t always know what that reason is, but you need to move on and accept the next challenge that life has to offer.
“It doesn’t make it hurt any less. I put a lot of time and effort preparing for my senior season and to have it all taken away in an instant hurts pretty bad. I knew something bad happened right away when I heard that pop in my knee. I never felt anything like that and in the back of my mind, I knew my season was over.
“But I wasn’t going to let that injury take away the one thing I had left. I was still a senior captain, and I vowed that I would be on the sidelines for every practice and every game. I still needed to set an example and support these guys that I’ve been playing with all my life.”
Kennedy was a tight end/linebacker as a junior last year, when Naugatuck went down to Ansonia and played its best game all season. He played an instrumental role on a defense that held the Chargers to a 12-0 halftime advantage, sparking hope among the Greyhounds faithful that this could be their year.
Ansonia went on to win that game, but the Hounds acquitted themselves well and took that enthusiasm into training hard for the upcoming season. Kennedy went on to help the Naugatuck baseball team qualify for the state tournament as a pitcher/outfielder.
As the summer came to an end and fall was approaching quickly, Kennedy and his teammates worked extra hard, looking forward to the season. It was something that Kennedy had looked forward to his whole life: His senior year and another final crack at the Ansonia Chargers on Thanksgiving Day in front of the Naugatuck home crowd.
“That game last Thanksgiving had us all pumped up,” Kennedy said. “Then came the Coach Plasky thing in the offseason, and I think it really brought the team together. We are a close-knit group of seniors, even when we are not on the field.
“This has certainly been the hardest thing I’ve ever been through. But being a captain, you are held to a higher standard, and I couldn’t let the team down by thinking about myself.”
Kennedy was there to support his teammates, who dedicated the first game of the season to their injured leader; Dan Mariano and Anthony McKernan carried him to midfield prior to the game for a captains’ meeting.
Naugatuck went out and defeated Seymour then came back a week later and throttled Torrington. The morale was high on the Greyhounds’ sideline, until injuries began to mount, and the team went into a tailspin.
“Once the injuries started, the guys came apart a little bit,” Kennedy said. “The coach can only do so much before it comes down to senior leadership. We needed to start getting it done. The character of these guys started to show as we had a real good game against Sacred Heart, turning the season around.
“Then last week, when the final seconds were ticking off the clock in the win over Holy Cross it was such an amazing feeling.”
Kennedy recently underwent surgery and is on the way to recovering in time to play his final season for the Naugatuck baseball team in the spring. But as his final Thanksgiving game approaches, Kennedy, who will attend Cheshire Academy to play football next fall, can’t help but think about a big W to take away the pain.
“The win over Holy Cross proved that we can beat a great team,” Kennedy said. “It has you thinking what might have been had we not had all the injuries. Being on the sidelines also has cemented my love for this game, and I could see myself in a coach’s role somewhere down the road.
“Playing baseball this spring will give me the opportunity and a little added incentive to finish out my high school career on a positive note. But I can’t help from thinking that a W on Thanksgiving Day will erase a lot of the negatives of this season that began with my injury.”