Senior Spotlight: Ballantyne looks to catch on in NFL

Ask head football coach Rocky Hager what he will remember most about Kendrick Ballantyne and you won’t have to wait long for a response.

“A play. Fourth-and-five. Overtime, New Hampshire. The catch, break a tackle, score a touchdown,” he said.

The 6-foot, 4-inch senior tight end’s 20-yard touchdown catch from sophomore quarterback John Sperrazza put the Huskies within one point in the Oct. 21 game. Minutes later, a Sperrazza pass to sophomore halfback Alex Broomfield gave the Huskies a stunning 36-35 homecoming win over then-No. 6 New Hampshire.

Ballantyne had five catches for 71 yards in the game, including two touchdowns, contributing to his team-leading total of 39 catches for 655 yards and seven touchdowns. He established himself as one of the top tight ends in the Atlantic-10, while being named All-New England by the New England Football Writer’s Association, and also named to the Atlantic-10 All-Conference second team. But the fact that Ballantyne even played for Northeastern is almost serendipitous.

The Gorham, Maine native originally attended the University of Maine. But his involvement in a fight at a football party landed him and five other players on the fast track off the team. He got a second chance with Hager, starting his first year at Northeastern.

“I saw him on film and he showed some athleticism. The one thing that we did identify was that as a tight end, he was not much of a blocker and he’s worked very hard to develop himself to be an adequate blocker.”

Due to NCAA transfer rules, Ballantyne had to redshirt his first year as a Husky. But he didn’t let this hold him back at practice.

“The year he was redshirted, he was scout player every day,” Hager said. “He lined up and he went every day. When he got banged up a little bit he kept going. He showed a degree of toughness that was desirable for any football program.”

He finally hit the field his junior year as a Husky, posting 18 catches for 182 yards and a score in six games before dislocating his elbow against William ‘ Mary Oct. 15, 2005.

“As a junior, he was doing pretty nicely for us and he dislocated his elbow,” Hager said.

“His efforts in the rehabilitation phase were very good as well, and consequently he earned the respect of his teammates. A year ago at this time, he was constantly in the weight room to the point that he was selected as the Iron Man for his efforts through the summer. That says an awful lot about the example he set off the field as well as on the field.”

Ballantyne earned the respect of his teammates and was voted co-captain to begin the 2006 season.

In 17 games with Northeastern, Ballantyne totaled 57 receptions for 837 yards and eight touchdowns, averaging 49.2 yards per game. His career-high reception 75-yard pass against Holy Cross Sept. 9 was the longest by a Husky since 1998.

His hard work and willingness to improve are qualities that will no doubt be useful in the NFL draft on April 28 and 29.

This semester Ballantyne has split time between Northeastern and Florida, where he is training with a strength and conditioning coach to prepare for the draft.

While he might not be drafted, he stands a good chance of being signed as a free agent in the days following the draft, Hager said.

For Ballantyne to succeed in the NFL, Hager said he needs to stay healthy, as well as continue to be a strong special teams player and learn the offensive system of whichever team he winds up on.

“In the NFL its called 9-5 and its 9-5 football. There’s an hour or so for lifting, an hour or so for eating, a couple of hours for practice but the rest of the time is the cerebral part, and by golly you better know how things fit themselves together,” Hager said.

His confidence and work ethic should help him as he makes the transition to the pros, Hager said.

“He’s a person that had some confidence, believed that he could make some plays,” he said. “And he did make some plays. Wherever he goes, he’ll do the best he can and the right things will happen.”

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