KJ Pollock became Northside’s starting quarterback even as his head coach father voted against it.
“We put him in the second quarter of our second game last year and he took us out on the court,” coach Kendrick Pollock said. “Then on Sunday at our coaches’ meeting, all our coaches voted for him to start, except me, because I didn’t think he was ready.”
But out of necessity, KJ received what his father called “on-the-job training” in the Monarchs’ 34-7 loss to New Hanover last year on Aug. 27.
Since that day, KJ has been the man giving the signals, following in his father’s footsteps.
Kendrick also played quarterback, but in Jacksonville.
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As a sophomore, he was elevated to college in 1994, the same year the Cardinals advanced to the state finals. He became a senior starter and later played for the Jacksonville Raiders, a now-defunct semi-professional team that existed in the early 2000s. Kendrick was named to the Mason-Dixon Football League Hall of Fame in 2011.
“When I watch a movie of my dad, I’m like, ‘No way it’s him,'” KJ said. “It motivates me to know what he has done as a player.”
KJ started playing football when he was 7 years old. He was too big to play in the tackle leagues, so he played flag football. It didn’t take long for him to show off his strong arm, a skill he developed throwing high school-sized balls with his father at a young age.
“The ball was about the same size as he was back then,” Kendrick said.
When asked if he was better than his father, KJ smiled, covered his mouth with his hand to block Kendrick’s vision, and agreed that his quarterbacking skills were superior to his father’s. KJ threw for 777 yards and six touchdowns last year for the Monarchs, who struggled to an 0-10 season.
Even his father had to admit that his son had the upper hand in some things.
“He throws a better ball than I did when I was his age,” Kendrick said. “He’s also taller than me at his age. At 15, I was 5ft 6, 140lbs and he’s 6ft 2, 240lbs. Personality wise, we’re both leaders low-key who lead by example, but I was a bit more fiery than him and would sometimes step in and say something. He will develop that over time.
Kendrick has loved football since he was young and he always wanted to stay involved in the game. KJ, on the other hand, loves playing the sport and wants to pursue a future in it, but also wants to get into web design.
“If he came to me today and said, ‘Dad, I don’t want to play football anymore’, it would hurt, but as long as he was doing something positive, I’d be okay with it,” Kendrick said. .
KJ, however, doesn’t feel the pressure of being the son of a former quarterback or having his father as his head coach. Kendrick has acknowledged that he is tough on his son and sometimes gives KJ stronger reinforcement than he wouldn’t give other players.
The soft-spoken junior said he wasn’t shaken at being held to a higher standard because he was the coach’s son.
“My dad expects a lot from me,” KJ said. “It’s hard, but I’m used to it.”
On the field or in the halls of the school, Kendrick is KJ’s coach. But at home, he is a dad. The two compartments do not often mix.
“KJ is still 15 and he still enjoys playing Fortnite, NBA 2K and other video games with his friends,” Kendrick said. “Sometimes I would like him to watch a few more movies, but we don’t talk about football at home unless he talks about it.
For Kendrick, KJ is just another player. He must earn his place and work to keep it.
“Things are fair with KJ like they are with everyone else on the team,” Kendrick said. “If someone comes along who’s better than him, they’re going to sit and watch, find another position to play or compete to try and get them back. It’s like that at every level here at Northside.
Chris Miller can be contacted by email at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @jdnsports.