Thursday, January 15, 2015


Column: New linebackers coach Kane a good fit

Kansas linebackers coach Kevin Kane visits with the media Wednesday, Jan 14, 2015, during an introductory session with the KU football teams assistant coaches.

Kansas linebackers coach Kevin Kane visits with the media Wednesday, Jan 14, 2015, during an introductory session with the KU football teams assistant coaches.


Mark Mangino had one scholarship left for his first recruiting class and he didn’t want to spend it on a player who would amount to Mr. Irrelevant. Legendary Rockhurst High football coach Tony Severino remembers the conversation he had about a 205-pound Hawklet linebacker in his office with Mangino.

“I remember Mark said, ‘Coach, are you sure?’ I said, ‘I’m telling you right now, this guy can play. This guy’s a football player,’ ” Severino said Thursday by phone.

Severino was right and Mangino was wise to trust the coach’s word. Kevin Kane proved to be just what his high school coach said he was, a football player. Not a blue-chip prospect, a football player. He didn’t look any better on the stop watch than he did on the scale. But he sure looks good to this day on the Memorial Stadium scoreboard when the play that I still consider the one that best symbolizes Kansas turning into a winning program under Mangino is shown. Kane returned an interception 41 yards to give Kansas a 16-point lead midway through the fourth quarter on the way to a 40-15 victory in 2005 against Nebraska, which had gone 36 consecutive years without losing to Kansas.

Kane, whose career lasted from 2002 through 2005, twice was named honorable mention All-Big 12 and earned Academic All-Big 12 honors three times.

After graduating from KU, Kane spent two years in the athletic department, the first year in administration, then as a graduate assistant for Mangino in the Orange Bowl season. Then he built his coaching resume at Wisconsin (2008-10) and Northern Illinois (2011-2014). Kane is back as linebackers coach, working under defensive coordinator Clint Bowen and head coach David Beaty. Now instead of pitching Kane, Severino will be pitching to him.

“Kevin brings a lot of good experience with him,” Severino said. “You can’t argue with the success Northern Illinois has had over the years. He’s a relentless recruiter. He goes after you. He’ll do a great job in Kansas City. People know him. He’ll be a real presence. That’s what David had to get, someone who’s known in Kansas City.”

Kane has a tough job, convincing high school football players to sign with a program coming off its worst five-year run in history, but it’s not any tougher than developing into a two-year starter in the Big 12 after arriving at school with the size and speed normally associated with walk-ons. Kane was in the program when it turned, which makes his voice important in discussions of how to turn it again.

In 2005, Kansas broke a string of nine losing seasons, went 7-5 and won the Fort Worth Bowl with Kane, Banks Floodman and Big 12 defensive player of the year Nick Reid at linebacker.

How did Kansas do it?

“One, we were able to get kids who wanted to be here,” Kane said. “It was important to them. Two, we had some tough kids. We were tough. Whether it was working out or fall camp, coach Mangino, if you made it through here, you were tough. And that was one thing, we weren’t scared of anybody when we walked on the field. OK, you’re playing Texas, Oklahoma, it didn’t matter. We were confident and tough.”

What else?

“We had some football IQ on this team,” Kane said. “You get those types of kids, you’re going to have some success. You’ve got to find them. You’ve got to develop them, and you’ve got to keep going.”

Kane spent the past four seasons recruiting those types of players to Northern Illinois, which compiled a 46-10 record in Kane’s four seasons there, the last three as linebackers coach with the added responsibility of special teams coordinator in his final two seasons. Add the records of the staffs for which he did lesser jobs at Wisconsin and Kansas and his career record is 86-22. That means he’s been exposed to the methods of multiple winning coaches.

Plenty of the winning plays on those teams were made by guys like him, who weren’t obvious prospects.

“You always hope to bring in the best guys who can come in and compete right away, but is that the reality? Not always,” said Kane, who grew to 230 pounds at KU and is back to 205. “... It’s more a prediction. Then when they get here you have to give them the tools to have success. We’ve hired a (former KU strength coach) Chris Dawson descendant (Je’Ney Jackson), which I’m fired-up about. I think Chris is one of the best in the business and it’s going to be very similar to what he has done. You can bring in guys who look like me and turn them into 230-, 235-pound guys who can help us.”

Kane said being so ignored as a recruit by most programs and going through such tough workouts at KU made him “play my entire career with a chip on my shoulder.”

The closer recruits are to home, the better said Kane, who also recruited Kansas City for Northern Illinois.

“It’s right in our back yard,” Kane said. “There are plenty of good football players in Kansas City. I was able to find those diamonds at Northern and then you develop them into good players. There are tons of kids in Kansas City who want to play here. If you get a player who wants to play here, he’s going to work his tail off.”

A player like Kane was at Rockhurst and again at Kansas after sweating in the weight room and on the practice field and studying film and the playbook.

“A guy like Kevin Kane,” Severino said, “when things are going bad he ain’t gonna walk away form you. You can’t win a Big 12 championship playing with 20 Kevin Kanes. But you can win with five or six Kevin Kanes. Then if you’ve got five or six you have to run after and chase because they’re walking away from you when things are going bad, if you’ve got that solid base you don’t have to worry about, they can help you turn those other guys around.”

It won’t be easy to build the burnt bridges from the previous two KU head coaches who underrated Kansas City talent, but Severino sounded convinced Kane is the right guy to do it.

“It’s funny,” Severino said, “Kansas should have more of an inroad to Kansas City guys than Kansas State or Missouri. But you’re kind of in a Catch 22. You have to get the players to win games, but you have to win games to get the players.

“You probably have 15 Big 12-type players in Kansas City every year. You’ve got to get your share of those. You’re not going to get them all, especially with Kansas State and Missouri doing so well, but you’ve got to get your share. The closer players are to the school, the more loyal they’re going to be. Those are the guys who are going to stay with you when things get tough.”

Kane came to KU from Parkville, Missouri, Reid from Derby, Floodman from Wichita. Football players don’t come much tougher than those guys. They endured a 2-10 freshman season, played in two bowl games and left the program in so much better shape than when they arrived. Now Kane’s on the lookout for those type of guys to help bring the program back from the ashes the way he used to be on the lookout for ending plays with punishing hits.


Jim Stauffer 7 years, 10 months ago

One of the greatest days ever in Memorial. Kane running back that pick and the scoreboard finally reading in our favor over such a longtime nemesis.

David Kemp 7 years, 10 months ago

Kane, Reid, Floodman, these guys set the tone for a run at Kansas of the best, toughest linebackers in the conference. I am sure he will build on this tradition. Once again happy to see hires that have skin in the game.

Robert Brock 7 years, 10 months ago

The Kane, Reid, and Floodman experience shows that you can get good players without daydreaming about recruiting in exotic places like Dallas.

Robert Brown 7 years, 10 months ago

This is a great article that encapsulates what has happened to the KU program post-Mangino. We have gotten away from finding the Kevin Kane's, developing them and getting them to play with a chip on their shoulder. Turner Gill approach was too soft and none of Weis's recruits felt like they had to play with a chip on their shoulder. They were highly rated transfers or highly rated JUCO players. Under both Weis and Gill, I did not see a lot of development, though, in fairness, both were only here a short time.

I do hope fans will be patient. This will be a 3-4 year process.

Bryce Landon 7 years, 10 months ago

3-4 years minimum. At the rate things have been going, I doubt KU will sniff a bowl game in this decade.

Bill French 7 years, 10 months ago


Michael Leiker 7 years, 10 months ago

Kane spent more time in Mizzou's backfield than Brad Smith during his time at KU!! This is exciting!

Tyler Fox 7 years, 10 months ago

Kevin Kane is exactly the type of player this program needs right now. I remember this quote about him made me laugh the time, He's definitely one of my all-time favorites.

"OK, so linebacker Kevin Kane isn't going to beat a turtle in a race. It's not because he's not trying.

'Ol' Kevin got his 40 time down this year. It's under 5-flat now,' Mangino quipped.

True, Kane's no elite sprinter, but the senior has negated any lack of speed by registering 69 tackles and earning honorable mention All-Big 12 Conference honors last year.

Mangino said Kane's ability to read offenses, react quickly and anticipate faster than most made up for any cement in his shoes.

'There is something to be said for intellectuals playing football,' Mangino said. 'You can't fool Kevin Kane.'"

kellerman411 7 years, 10 months ago

Kane is ABSOLUTELY correct. Kansas City football is incredibly under rated. Snyder gets 10 of them every year and then wins 10 games and people say oh he is doing so much with so little.. Snyder is a good coach but the reality is that the players he pulls out of Kansas can freaking play. Some of these 3 star players out of KC would easily be 4 stars if they played in a hotbed where all the main stream recruiting analysis is done.

Bryce Landon 7 years, 10 months ago

How does Snyder get these guys to go to a backwater town like Manhattan? He must be doing something shady and dishonest.

kellerman411 7 years, 10 months ago

That is just it. KU has been SO BAD that the kids will gladly live farther from home to play in ManCrappin. All KU has to do is keep strong facilities and consistently be a .600 team and we own KC. Although, with the recent stadium renovation KSU has undertaken, it has widened the gap from that perspective. KU needs to make an upgrade of their own. Memorial stadium needs a spa day!

Bryce Landon 7 years, 10 months ago

If KU wants to make an upgrade, they should build a brand new football stadium. In fact, they would have been better served doing that instead of building a small stadium for the soccer and track teams.

Dirk Medema 7 years, 10 months ago

The small stadium for track and soccer is the precursor for the stadium rehab/replacement. If we can field a competent team, the announcement will be made by the end of the season.

Dirk Medema 7 years, 10 months ago

I remember a quote from Darren Sproles years ago, that he wanted to go to KU, but the coaches refused to recruit him. Between Kane and the Weir (?), the local recruiting should turn around. Add to that Beaty and a couple of the other coaches should help with TX recruiting. That's a recipe for success.

Aaron Paisley 7 years, 10 months ago

Didn't Jordy Nelson say pretty much the same thing as well and that Ben Heeney was well on his way to being the next guy in the line as well before Gill finally decided to offer him.

Brian Skelly 7 years, 10 months ago

Living in St. Louis, I can tell you that for a long, long, long time Mizzou didnt recruit St. Louis very well. Similar situation to what we are in now. And St. Louis cranks out alot of top flight recruits. Most for a good 20+ years or so would go elsewhere (Big 10 or Big 12 usually). That has since changed. The Big 10 in general does well here. I could go down the list, but Elliott from OSU who ran for 3,524,124 yards against Oregon is a St. Louis product. KU actually does okay here. It seems a kid or two a year signs with KU, sometimes pretty good ones to.

The reality is I think there is an inherent thought that local guys arent as good. Maybe its because they actually see them more and see all of their flaws. I dunno. It would benefit us greatly to make in-roads in KC again. Does that mean KU will end up getting a ton of pro prospects? Maybe not. I think we'd all agree simply fill the roster with Big 12 starting level players would be a good start. My guess is our new coach will do much better in KC, and in general just getting guys who want to be at KU.

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