King of the Hill

Kingwood DE Andrew Kinsella

The Naval Academy reeled in some big-time defensive players with this year's recruiting class, with none bigger than Kingwood (TX) defensive end Andrew Kinsella – literally. Kinsella, who at 6-foot-7 is one of the tallest football recruits to ever commit to Navy, passed up offers from numerous Division I programs to take his elite athleticism to Annapolis.

On paper, Andrew Kinsella is a 6-foot-7, 250-pound defensive end out of Kingwood High School in suburban Houston. A disruptive playmaker off the edge, Kinsella is by all accounts an athletic ‘freak,' posting times and numbers in a variety of skill tests that would turn heads at the NFL combine, much less a college summer camp. Relatively unknown before his senior season at Kingwood, Kinsella made his triumphant splash onto the recruiting scene when he ran a 4.7 40-yard dash at a summer camp hosted by Vanderbilt University, following up the successful showing with successful stints at both the UTEP (4.50 second shuttle) and Texas A&M (32-inch vertical) camps.

With such amazing numbers, you would think that BCS level programs would have been all over the player some have described as a ‘jumbo' athlete. But for a variety of reasons – most outside of his control – Kinsella remained relatively unknown during the fall of 2009. Before his commitment to Navy earlier this month, Kinsella held offers from some half-dozen Division I programs, and was leaning towards local and rising Conference-USA power Southern Methodist before settling on Annapolis.

"I kind of got screwed over," Kinsella said when describing the recruiting process. "The SMU coaches, when they offered me they said they were surprised that the bigger schools hadn't offered me. If I would have gotten more exposure my junior year they said I would have had more big-time offers."

Not that Kinsella is complaining. Driven more by an interest for the Naval Academy's combination of top-flight academics and unbeatable reputation as a rising non-BCS team, the ‘athletic freak' was more than receptive to renew a lifelong interest in pursuing a college degree at the Academy when Navy's coaches called him in mid-September.

"It started about two or three games into the season," he explained. "[The Navy coaches] contacted me, because one of my good friends – Pablo Beltran – was up there on a visit and had commented on me. He mentioned that I had a few offers and stuff, and after that [the Navy coaches] started to come to talk to me. And then when Navy played in the Texas Bowl I went to watch them practice."

Kinsella already held offers from UTEP, Louisiana Tech, SMU and Princeton by the time Navy lined up to play Missouri in the Texas Bowl, and had narrowed his list to the Mustangs, Tigers and Midshipmen by late December. Looking for the perfect combination of academics and football, the second team All-District defender said that Navy's Texas Bowl victory over Missouri helped make his decision an easy one. "It was definitely big for me. I had been thinking about committing to SMU after what they did in their bowl game, but that was against Nevada – which is like a ‘normal' team. But then I saw the game against Missouri, which is always good in the Big 12, and Navy was able to knock them off and prove they're a national program. So that was big."

Truth be told, Kinsella wasn't exactly an objective observer by the time he made his commitment. With numerous family connections to the military and an interest in pursuing a Naval Academy engineering degree which dated back to his freshmen year in high school, Kinsella was merely renewing a dormant interest in the Academy during the entire fall of 2009.

"It's weird, because my freshmen year of high school I was looking into the Naval Academy," Kinsella explained. "I applied to the summer seminar but didn't get into it, so guess I kind of ‘blew them off' for a little bit. But after I got exposure playing varsity football the staff came to me. At first I had kind of lost my ‘want' to go there, but then I came around to find that I really did like it a lot, and going to Navy was what I wanted to do. You get the combination of great D-1 athletics and a good education."

It certainly helped that the Naval Academy's academic programs were exactly what Kinsella was looking for. Although the chance to earn a business degree from Princeton tempted him, the academic oriented Kinsella couldn't pass up the opportunities that a post-graduation Navy career will offer him.

"That's the other reason I picked Navy -- I'm most likely going into mechanical engineering, and I was really down to comparing Navy and Princeton," he said. "Had I would of decided on business I might have gone to Princeton, but at Navy you can be exposed to new technology with the whole government and military connection, and their engineering program is phenomenal, so that made me lean there."

So why didn't Kinsella draw more interest out of high school? He's reluctant to get too in-depth, but he explained that a series of circumstances throughout high school limited the amount of exposure he was able to procure before his senior year.

"My head coach helped me out a lot my senior year in getting my name out and stuff, but I went to school in Philadelphia my freshmen year and moved down [to Texas] my sophomore year. As a sophomore the [Kingwood] coaches said they wanted me to get acquainted with the new offense they were running, so they put me on JV."

With no varsity exposure in the talent rich state prior to his junior season, Kinsella would have needed a monster junior campaign to begin to register on multiple programs' radars. Unfortunately for him, ‘real life' got in the way.

"My junior year I was initially going to move back to Philadelphia because of my dad's job, and initially we were up there for like two weeks," he continued. "Those couple weeks when we were up in Philadelphia though – before we moved back – I missed two-a-days. So the coaches put me on JV again because of that. On JV I was like destroying everyone but they still wouldn't move me up until after six weeks or so. So finally I was on varsity, but I was playing wide receiver…so the situation kinda screwed me, and I was late in getting exposure."

Despite his sometimes frustrating recruiting experience with other schools, Kinsella is optimistic and excited about playing for Navy. Set to join several other highly touted defensive prospects like Florida linebacker Vinnie Mauro and Pennsylvania linebacker Michael Huf, Kinsella expects future Navy defenses to help the Mids continue their current run of success.

"I think we can actually do some pretty big stuff," he said. "I'm really looking forward to trying to make an impact."

And if all goes according to plan, he won't have to wait long. A direct-entry recruit, Kinsella will join his future Navy teammates for the fall semester. For now though, he reigns as "King of the Hill" and one of the biggest young men in Kingwood – both figuratively, and literally.

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