Jake Kennedy’s football career didn’t end when the Wittenberg Tigers fell short of making the Division III playoffs last fall.
The Bellefontaine High School graduate Kennedy, who finished his career as Wittenberg’s all-time leader in passing yards (7,949) and touchdown passes (75), will play professional football in Graz, Austria.
“That was kind of my goal before the season,” Kennedy said. “I wanted to keep playing after the season. Just the way the season ended, it wasn’t looking good, and then the next thing you know, I was getting to the point where I was putting it behind me, and then a couple teams reached out once I put my highlights and my stats online. I just went with the best team and the most money, and it just seemed like the best opportunity.”
The Austrian Football League has eight teams. Each team can have three foreign players. All the teams have American quarterbacks, Kennedy said.
Former Mount Union quarterback Kevin Burke led the Dacia Vienna Vikings to the championship in 2017 and was named MVP of the Austrian Bowl. Zach Cavanaugh, who played at Division III Curry College in Massachusetts, led the league in passing in 2018.
Kennedy leaves Feb. 10 for Austria. Practice begins two days later. The season starts in April. Each team plays 10 regular-season games. The playoffs begin in July.
Kennedy has stayed in shape and prepared for the start of his pro career by working out with Wittenberg teammate Jeff Tiffner and another former Bellefontaine quarterback, Dezmin Lyburtus, who plays at Ferris State.
Kennedy expects to play right away with his new team, the Graz Giants.
“With them only being allowed three imports, they’re not really going to waste an import, so they expect me to start,” he said. “Unless I were to get hurt, the job’s mine. They’re going to build around me. The offensive coordinator (Robert Gallik) is from the U.S. That’s big. That was huge with me going there. He’s been able to call me and go over schemes. They actually run almost the same offense as we did at Wittenberg, so that’s not going to be much of a transition. He reached out to me and even told me to send over some of my favorite plays, and he’ll put them in the playbook.”
Kennedy was on schedule to graduate in the spring but will postpone his final semester until next fall so he can play in Austria. He’ll help coach his old Wittenberg teammates during the 2019 season.
“I return a week and a half before camp starts, so it’s almost perfect,” Kennedy said.