Dwight Kennedy, 45 years old, from San Diego, was convicted of Possession of a Firearm and received 25 years-to-life under the
California Three Strikes Act in 1999. As of the date of this interview, he was still awaiting his Prop 57 updated paperwork.
Last season, he became the head coach of the San Quentin All Madden Flag Football team, and I caught him as he was about to begin his workout routine on the lower yard.
AT: What keeps you focused as coach with the All-Madden team?
DK: The young guys coming out to play. And my family as well.
AT: What do you mean by “the young guys”? Do you see yourself as a mentor?
AT: In what way?
DK: I’m always teaching life skills, showing them a better way in this community as well as when they get back home.
AT: What drives you? I mean, you haven’t, as of this interview, received any relief from Prop 57, so, what makes you go out of your way to help others?
DK: God gives us a spirit of love and to see young men get to a better place. And I try to help them get there by exhibiting that love. That’s what drives me. It doesn’t matter what the state has or hasn’t done for me with the law, I’m still going to give of myself because that’s what I’m called to do. This is bigger than prison, man! This is about life and I’m going to assist no matter where I am!
AT: That’s cool. We need more people who feel like you in the system to get involved. Who are some of your role models in sports?
DK: Walter Payton, off the top. His legacy speaks for itself on and off the field. Magic Johnson is someone doing phenomenal work with youth and mentoring in the communities where it’s needed. His life is a testament to falling from the highest in sports, to rising higher in his humanitarian efforts. Larry Fitzgerald is another person I see in the eyes of the Lord for his on and off the field character.
AT: What school did you go to in San Diego?
DK: Point Loma High School.
AT: Name some players who went pro from the greater San Diego area that you’ve sought to emulate on the field.
DK: Marcus Allen, Terrell Davis, Marshall Faulk, Junior Seau, Tony Gwynn, Rahsaan Salaam.
AT: So, you come from a long line of San Diego athletics?
DK: Definitely. It’s more than that but you caught me during my workout and I can’t think right now. (We both laugh at this comment)
AT: What educational opportunities have you taken here at The Q?
DK: PUP, I’m a 2009- 10 graduate, received an Associate Liberal Arts degree..
AT: What about self-help groups?
DK: Multiple… almost all of them.
AT: Name some.
DK: Victim Offender Education Group, Restorative Justice, No More Tears, Criminals and Gangsters Anonymous and Prison Employment Connection. Also Non- violent Communication,I II & III and Incarcerated Men Putting Away Childish Things (I.M.P.A.C.T.) That group was profound even though it no longer exists. Some others as well.
AT: From your perspective, how has the overall sports program here at The Q helped people in their rehabilitation?
DK: I think it involves individuals exhibiting who they are on the field or court… they expose their authentic selves. Now, that could be positive or negative and it’s not always associated with group participation. Sometimes? Some people have emotional intelligence that’s more elevated than others. Add to that, the focus on rehabilitation is what buoys a person to recognize the need for some self-correction. Sports instills discipline, self-dignity, honor and respect for others. That’s the foundation for rehabilitation.
AT: Okay, fun time. You get to name your All Star All Time NFL Football team…but, you can only pick White players. (As Coach Kennedy knew from previous interviews, this question isn’t racial in origin but a way of narrowing the choices to test his knowledge of the league.) Let’s go position-by- position:
DK: Oh damn, really? All White? Okay, QB: Montana and Peyton Manning. RB: Mike Alstott and John Riggins. FB: Rocky Blier. TE: Jay Novacek and Mark Bavarro. WR: Dwight Clark; Steve Largent; Chris Collingsworth; Wes Welker and Julian Eddleman. KR: Ed McCafferey Jr.
DE: Howie Long and Merlin Olsen. DT: Lyle Alzado. LB: Keuchly; Carl Mecklenberg; Jack Ham and Jack Youngblood. Safeties: Mark Kelso and John Lynch. DB: Jason Seahorn and Eric Weddle. K: Adam Vinateri. P: Ray Guy
AT: That was tough. It only took you an hour and a half and 15 people helping you out!
DK: That was hard as hell. (Laughing)
AT: Okay, you have the closing statement.
DK: “In all that you say and do? Believe in yourself.”
AT: Thanks coach, I appreciate you taking time from your workout to do this.
DK: You’re welcome.