Mothers know best.
“I’m a God-fearing woman,” says Kozetta Taylor. “I knew from the time he was in my womb that this journey, all of 18 years, was the purpose of his life. Now it is coming to fruition. I’m so proud of him.”
Her son, Kendel, had moments before announced his formal commitment to take the talents he plied on the football field at Madison Heights Bishop Foley to the U S. Naval Academy, one of 30 Catholic League student-athletes who recently announced their college choices.
Over at Warren De La Salle, Michelle Dobbs shared the advice she gave her son, Jacob, who decided to pursue football at Holy Cross in Massachusetts rather than at Michigan:
“If you want to play football, then go to a school where you’ll likely play.”
Taylor, Dobbs and two of Dobbs’ teammates — Josh DeBerry (off to Boston College) and Danny Motowski (Central Michigan) — are among 30 Catholic League student-athletes who have announced their choices as their football lives transition from high school to the college level.
“The Navy has always been my dream school,” Taylor says. His long-term ambition is to join the Marines after graduating from the Navy and make a career of it.
Military service is a special chapter in the family’s history. Three uncles joined the Army, with two still in Special Forces, and his brother, Kaylan, hitched up with the Marines right after he graduated in 2013 from Bishop Foley.
“I look up to my brother. He guides me. He’s my mentor,” Taylor says.
Kaylan played football, hockey and lacrosse at Foley. Kendel does him one better: football, wrestling, lacrosse and track — for four years and every year on the varsity. He’ll wind up with 16 letters, a feat you don’t come across much in today’s world of specialization.
His father, Karl, keeps his gridiron stats: 3,495 yards rushing and 51 touchdowns, both school records. Kendel is aiming to be a repeat-qualifier this spring in the state finals in wrestling and track.
However, it was Kendel’s personal attributes that brought forth lavish praise and applause from coaches, administrators and teammates assembled in the media center for the after-school ceremony.
Football coach Brian Barnes said, “Kendel is the kind of kid you’d want your daughter to marry. He’s a leader in the classroom and the locker room, a person of high character.”
Wrestling coach Berney Gonzales said “it was a honor to watch him develop year after year into a top-notch athlete.”
Athletic director Brian Hassler said Kendel “lived in the spotlight; he didn’t seek it ... this is a great day for him, for Bishop Foley.”
The grind is demanding for a student who also is an athlete. What about the rigorous routine of being a cadet, too?
“You’ll be told all the time what to do,” brother Kaylan says. “Physically, Kendel can handle it. It’ll be the mental aspect that will be the challenge.”
His mother has faith. “Kendel can do anything he puts his mind to. He will persevere,” she says.
A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to play college football was the message from Jacob Dobbs’ mother.
“It came down to Holy Cross or Michigan,” Michelle Dobbs said. “There was a catch. U-M’s offer was as a preferred walk-on, meaning there was no financial support and no guarantee you would play.
“So I told Jacob, ‘This is your moment. You can’t be 40 and wish you would have played. There’s no do-over. This is not the NFL. (Pointing to her head) You’ll make your money this way.'”
She whispered: “We prayed a lot hoping that we made the right choice.”
Jacob’s father, Lou Dobbs (a 1989 De La Salle alum), said the whole recruiting process was a blessing.
“I had a lot of one-on-one time with Jacob driving to various campuses,” he said. “Holy Cross is a Jesuit college that has the same value system as De La Salle.”
In his introductory remarks, coach Mike Giannone — three years at De La Salle, two state championships — described Dobbs as “a great leader who controlled the game.” He put on a spectacular performance in the state title victory over Muskegon Mona Shores, catching a 44-yard pass for a touchdown and making a game-high 16 tackles, more than doubling his season per-game average.
In his 21 years coaching, Giannone said Josh DeBerry “was the best athlete I’ve ever coached. He was a game-changer on offense (12 touchdowns, 36 receptions for 770 yards), and a game-stopper on defense (44 tackles and five interceptions).” He had more than a dozen offers before settling on Boston College over Wake Forest and Northwestern.
Giannone called guard Dan Motowski, at 6-feet-2 and 280 pounds, “the enforcer” who displayed “strength, mentality, balance and desire” as a three-year starter and team captain.
Many more student-athletes will reveal their decisions in early February when the NCAA holds its traditional signing day.
Contact Don Horkey at firstname.lastname@example.org.