AMHERST -- Jake Kennedy isn't like most New Hampshire high school football players, and not just because he's 6-foot-4 and weighs 280 pounds.
What separates Kennedy from the majority is the fact that he entered his senior season at Souhegan High School in Amherst with seven Division I scholarship offers. He has one offer from an FBS school — the University of Massachusetts — and six from FCS schools: Colgate, Fordham, Holy Cross, Maine, Rhode Island and the University of New Hampshire.
Connecticut, Maryland and Villanova are among the other schools that showed interest.
“It's hard to say if any of those other I-A schools will come back into the fray, but Jake's pretty happy with who's offered him,” Souhegan coach Mike Beliveau said. “He's also generated lots of Ivy League interest. He's a strong GPA kid.”
Kennedy started on Souhegan's offensive line as a sophomore, and was a two-way starter for the Sabers last season, when he made 54 tackles (34 solo) and recorded four sacks. UMass recruited him as a defensive lineman. The other schools like him on the offensive side of the ball.
“It doesn't matter to me where I play,” Kennedy said “I just want to play football.”
UMass, which will compete in the Mid-American Conference this season, was the first school to offer Kennedy a scholarship. Beliveau said college coaches are impressed with Kennedy's athleticism. Kennedy also plays varsity basketball for Souhegan.
“I think they were impressed with the way he moves 280 pounds around,” Beliveau said. “He's an athlete in a 280-pound body. I think he's an excellent pass blocker, and he plays to the whistle — he tries to finish you off.”
Kennedy was a Division III All-State selection as an offensive tackle last year. This summer he was one of 400 players nominated to play in the 2013 U.S. Army All-American Bowl, an all-star game that features some of the top high school players in the country. Ninety players will be selected to participate in the game, which will be held Jan. 5 in San Antonio and will be televised by NBC.
Earlier this year Kennedy said he hoped to choose a college before the start of his senior year, but that timetable has been pushed back. He's found the recruiting process to be like going out for ice cream — lots of good choices.
“I'm down to Fordham, UMass, UNH and Yale,” he said. “If Yale is a possibility, with the Ivy League education, you've got to take a look at that. I also like Bentley a lot. The whole Division II thing doesn't phase me that much.
“The fact that UMass is playing I-A football is intriguing, and they're always checking in on me. UNH has great football and being a New Hampshire kid there's the whole fact of staying in state. I love the coaching staff. Coach (Sean) McDonnell — I get a good vibe from him.”
Kennedy, who said he would like to major in business, attended a UNH practice Friday. He has taken unofficial visits to five of the seven schools that have extended scholarship offers. Colgate and Maine are the only schools he has not seen.
The NCAA allows recruited players to take five official visits (most expenses are paid for by the school) once they enter their season year.
“UNH has been candid and accommodating,” Beliveau said. “I know they would like to get him in the fold. He has a strong, strong feeling toward the coaches at UNH, and how the program wins all the time.
“I get the sense that UMass would like his decision sooner rather than later. UMass would give him the chance to play in the MAC and at Gillette Stadium. With Fordham it's all about education. He really likes Bentley with the education and the location, but I'm not sure they can come up with a package to entice him.”
Kennedy said he'll probably begin to schedule official visits shortly after his senior season ends.
“I'm not ready (to make a decision) yet,” he said. “I don't want to pick a school just because of football or just because of academics. I want to be happy. I want to pick a place where I can look back and say I had a good time there. The level of football doesn't really matter.”