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In the Shadows – John Kinder

You often hear the phrase “football is life” and it rings true for a number of athletes that participate in the sport or have retired from the game they love. Even after your playing days are over, no matter the level, it can still consume you. If you look around the sidelines or the press box at the local high school field it’s filled with ex-players enjoying the next phase of their football journey. Coaching, broadcasting and even officiating is now paramount.

Ever since John Kinder left Stony Brook University in May of 2015, he’s been involved in football. The Long Island, NY native graduated from Lawrence High School in the town of Cedarhurst in 2010. He was the football team’s quarterback and a highly regarded prospect with offers from several top collegiate programs.

Kinder chose Syracuse University and was red-shirted his freshman year. Kinder played behind future NFL draft pick Ryan Nassib. After graduation, where he earned a degree in communication and rhetorical studies, Kinder left for Stony Brook University and took advantage of his eligibility to play one more season of college football.

At Stony Brook, Kinder appeared in five games for the Seawolves. He was backing up Conor Bednarski in his final collegiate game and took snaps when the starter went down with an injury. Kinder finished with a TD throw and 178 yards.

Kinder wanted to stay in the game and was looking for different avenues in which to pursue. He called on Brady Rourke, who was his athletic advisor at Syracuse. “Brady was a really cool guy and was a mentor to me,” Kinder said. “He (Rourke) really opened my eyes. I really liked what he did for me and it was something that I thought about doing after graduation.”

Kinder followed Rourke to West Virginia University where he began working as an intern. “That was wild down in Morgantown. It’s a college town so everything is WVU down there. I learned a lot and enjoyed what I was doing,” said Kinder.

Three years ago Kinder moved to Lakewood, NY with his wife Lydia to start a family. She had roots in the southern tier. Tom Langworthy, current head coach of the Jamestown Red Raiders football team was a close family friend. Kinder reached out about joining the coaching staff but at the time, Jamestown was fully staffed.

Langworthy suggested another Jamestown area high school, Southwestern, and recommended Kinder to their head coach Jehuu Caulkrick. “It was a match made in heaven,” Kinder said. “I still remember the first time I was in Jehuu’s office and we just drew up plays on the white board. We shared the same vision and were speaking the same language. It was the perfect fit.”

Kinder was tasked with the job of nurturing Cole Snyder, a young quarterback with a lot of promise. “Cole is everything you want in a quarterback. He’s a sponge; his best attribute is his brain. The way he prepares and executes on the field is why he continues to be successful,” Kinder said. “A lot of QB’s understand what they see on film but not all can transfer that onto the field, whereas Cole can.”

It is at Southwestern where Kinder found his love for coaching. “I never thought of myself as being a coach. When I was in high school and at college, I needed a lot of coaching.” Kinder credits the coaching staff at Syracuse for bringing out the best in him and not just on the field.

“I had a lot of great coaches at Syracuse; Doug Marrone, Nathaniel Hackett, Tyrone Wheatley, Rob Moore – these were football guys. These guys all live for football and they were very organized,” Kinder said.

“Marrone was not necessarily a player’s coach, meaning he did things the old school way but he knew how to win. He was very successful at SU.” It is no surprise to Kinder that Marrone, as well as Hackett, Wheatley and Moore, are having success at the pro level. Buffalo Bills fans know Marrone all too well, as he left Syracuse to take the Bills head coaching job in 2013. In 2014, Marrone guided the Bills to their first winning season in 10 years but abruptly left that spring for reasons unknown.

Hackett and Wheatley worked under Marrone during his tenure in Buffalo and are now a part of his coaching staff in Jacksonville.  The Jaguars defeated the Bills last season in the Playoffs.

“Nate is extremely organized and a great coach, probably the best I’ve ever been around. What I like about him is he tells you up front that he isn’t perfect but he will come and work hard and try to get better each day. Players respect that and more important we can all relate to that,” Kinder said.

Snyder, now a senior, made a verbal commitment to Rutgers University over the summer. He is the first Western New York quarterback to receive a full scholarship to play football at a Big 10 school. How much of Snyder’s success is attributed to Kinder?

“John has been instrumental in developing me and preparing me for this opportunity,” Snyder said. “What he has done to improve my mechanics alone is just amazing. I’ve been fortunate to work with him.”

Tom Repicci of PrepStar, a National company that provides college opportunities for high school student-athletes, represents Cole. “I met John through my relationship with the Snyder family,” Repicci said. “Look around at the QB’s that he works with and you can see how much they have improved, year to year. You can see the results on the field.”

Through five weeks of the season, Kinder has his fingerprints on three of the top 6 offenses in Western New York. In addition to coaching Snyder at Southwestern, Kinder also works with Gerrit Hinsdale of Clymer/Sherman/Panama. Hinsdale has thrown nine touchdowns for the Wolfpack and are undefeated (5-0) this season. They are also the No. 1 ranked team in NYS in Class D. Hinsdale is in his second year under Kinder’s tutelage.

Connor Desiderio has also received instruction from Kinder. The Maryvale quarterback is having another great season. The Flyers are 4-1 and have amassed 218 points. Desiderio is playing less than a half due to Maryvale’s offensive dominance. In the Flyers’ four wins they are averaging over 43 points a game. Connor is completing over 60% of his passes, has thrown eight touchdowns and has zero interceptions.

“Like Cole, these other guys bring a unique skill set. Connor has a live arm and can make plays with his feet. He can really hurt you with the deep ball. I see a lot of Cole in Gerrit, in the way that he digests game film and translates that information to the field. There is no reason to think they can’t play at the next level,” Kinder said.

Watching the way Snyder, Desiderio and Hinsdale have developed have been a joy for Kinder who is thankful that Caulkrick brought him on board. “We are the lucky ones,” Caulkrick said. “The work he has done with Cole and Alex Card has been exceptional.”

Card is a senior wide-receiver for the Trojans and Snyder’s top target. The two teammates have broken individual school records this year and there is still a long way to go. “I have so much knowledge I want to pass along, whether it’s working with quarterbacks or receivers. Just coaching these football players in general is what I really want to continue doing,” Kinder said.

Kinder admitted that he didn’t appreciate Hackett during his time at Syracuse. “I wish I could talk to him and let him know where I am today. I would not be here without his guidance. I owe a lot to him.”

WNYAthletics.com attempted to reach Hackett for comment on this story but were unsuccessful.

“I love where I am at right now but you can’t ever be complacent. I’m always trying to get better and grow,” Kinder says. “We’ll see what happens down the road but for now I’m concentrating on these kids. I want to give them the guidance that others gave me. My job is to pass on what I have learned so we can continue to grow the game.”

The Kinders welcomed a baby boy last year, John III.

Kinder is hoping to expand on his current network of student-athletes. He travels around and has different venues available for training purposes. Kinder can be reached via email: john.fitz.kinder14@gmail.com

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