Friday, September 17, 2010

Back in the Saddle: Joe Kinville returns to CMU football team

By Anthony Fenech, Senior Reporter || September 17, 2010

He wasn’t thinking about football, not while fishing and not while hunting on his buddy’s property in Clare, and certainly not while living the college life.

Joe Kinville wasn’t thinking about football. He swears.

“I was happy with my decision,” he said. “And I didn’t regret leaving for a minute.”

No, the Central Michigan sophomore defensive end wasn’t thinking about football last January, while driving south on U.S. 127 in his white Ford F-150, on the way to his little brother’s wrestling tournament.

But football was thinking about him. And so was his little brother.

“It was overwhelming,” Kinville said. “It all just came back at a moment. I wanted to play.”

Just a year after leaving the Chippewas as a redshirt freshman following the 2008 Motor City Bowl, Joe Kinville wanted to play again.

He admits a return first started creeping into his head when head coach Dan Enos began recruiting his younger brother Mike, and he’ll tell you his departure had nothing to do with the previous coaching staff, but whatever it was that was keeping Kinville away from football, whatever it was that was keeping him in the gym and off the football field, it disappeared on that long stretch of two-lane highways to Lansing.

“Everything clicked,” he said Wednesday at Kelly/Shorts Stadium, just a few days before his third consecutive start of the season at a position he’s known for a whole nine months. “I lost sight of how much I loved the game.”

So he walked into a wrestling tournament in Holt and told his parents and couple of others. Shortly thereafter, Mike, a Detroit Catholic Central senior just minutes from a Division 1 high school match in front of Eastern Michigan football coaches, found out from a teammate that his older brother was coming back to football.

Then he heard it from his brother.

“I’m going to play,” Joe said. “Now you need to come up to Central.”

Needless to say, Mike took home first place that day.

“I was really excited,” Mike Kinville said. “I’ve always been playing because he was playing.”
Now, they would be playing together.

Meeting Enos

‘Hey coach, I’m Joe. Remember me?’

Dan Enos remembered Joe Kinville. He remembered the big frame, the thick eyebrows and the athletic ability from recruiting Joe at Catholic Central as an assistant at Michigan State and, truth be told, he was hoping that Joe would show up.

And he did, on this cold, January day inside the warmth of Enos’ newly-occupied office in the Indoor Athletic Complex.

“I was wondering if I could walk on the team,” he said.

“Well Joe,” Enos asked, “Didn’t you didn’t quit once already?”

The nervous college sophomore nodded his head.

“So what makes us think you’re not going to come out here and quit again? You’re going to have to give us a pretty good reason.”

That reason lies somewhere in the knit-tight family life of the Kinvilles, a working-class family from Northville, and someplace in the sometimes-lonely world of a football player without a football field to play on.

“He just wasn’t happy,” said Mike Kinville. “He’s always been playing and when you’re not playing, it’s kind of tough.”

And tough is an embedded characteristic of the Kinville brothers, both successful wrestlers in high school.
“They’re workers, coming from a blue-collar, salt of the earth type of family,” Enos said.

And as the saying goes, when the going gets tough, the tough get going. But Joe Kinville’s reason wasn’t tough. It wasn’t about hard hits, sacking quarterbacks or glory on the gridiron.

“Coach,” Joe said. “My kid brother is coming here to play football. What type of example would I be setting if I didn’t do the same thing and work just as hard?”

And with that, Joe Kinville was back on the CMU football team.

Change of heart

To say Joe Kinville never thought about football, ever, during his hiatus from the sport as he lived the college experience would be inaccurate.

He thought about football on Friday nights as he sat in the stands with his family and watched Mike dart sideline-to-sideline, and he thought about football when he reminisced about how his little brother would mimic big brother on the field as they grew up.

“Man,” he would think those nights. “He’s out there playing and I’m not.”

And it irked him.

“It was different,” he said. “I had the chance to play and quit. That’s not a good example to set for your little brother.”

So after Enos’ blessing, which included the not-to-be overlooked remarks about needing a defensive end the upcoming fall, and thinking the now 6-foot-2, 248-pound player would look mighty fine putting on a few more pounds, Joe Kinville got to work on setting the example straight.

In the weight room this winter, Enos said that Joe Kinville, “Drove in that first day and worked as hard as anybody.”

Throughout the spring and summer, the former linebacker worked and worked to transition to the defensive line, and on Sept. 2, Joe Kinville recorded his first collegiate sack in his first collegiate start, completing an unlikely journey from redshirt freshman to out of football and back.

“He seems happy now that he’s back playing football,” Mike Kinville said.

Older brother agrees.

“Having the time off made me a stronger player,” he said. “Now I’m back. I’ve missed it, I know I need it and I have both feet in now.”

These days, Joe Kinville is back to thinking about football.

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