Note: The following appears in the Duke gameday football program
It’s all in the routine. For Kendall Joseph, weekdays mean schoolwork punctuated by football practice and meetings, eat, sleep and repeat. When Saturdays hit, it’s game time. And then Sundays are for making the 28-mile drive home to Belton, S.C., for a weekly meal at his grandparents’ house with his mother and brother.
“I’m big on family. My grandmother is awesome, my grandfather is a legend in my eyes and my mom is my rock and a sweet soul. I’ve lived in Belton my whole life, and my whole family is in Iva, Anderson or Belton. It’s close-knit.”
So it was only natural that the self-proclaimed family guy was drawn to the Clemson Family, but for an Anderson County local, Joseph’s journey to become a Tiger linebacker was not exactly natural.
Joseph grew up playing soccer, taking after his Haitian-immigrant father, who earned a soccer scholarship that brought him to what was then known as Anderson College, where he met Joseph’s mother, an Iva native. However, he gradually “got too big” to continue playing soccer, so he turned to a different kind of football, and it stuck, especially after he started training with his bodybuilder father, which really transformed his game and began to teach him the principle of success coming through hard work.
But despite living in an area with such deep college football roots, Joseph’s childhood focus was on the professional ranks. He cared much more about what Michael Vick and the Atlanta Falcons were doing on Sundays than the Saturday performance of the Tigers, or the Gamecocks, or really any college football team for that matter. In fact, before his later high school years, he only remembers coming to one Clemson game.
That all changed once the recruiting process started.
“By the time I was getting recruited, I definitely knew about college football, and I knew when I got the Clemson offer, it was a big deal. When they offered me, my school was going crazy…they couldn’t believe it.”
Joseph ultimately fell in love with Clemson because of its proximity to home, which meant that in addition to maintaining his Sunday routine, his family could, and has, come to every home game. He also, predictably, loved the family atmosphere that Clemson is so well known for.
“The family here…I could tell that the coaches were good people and would treat you right. They weren’t the kind of people who would do anything to get a win…they were going to do things the right way. Those things had an impact on me.”
Joseph has since returned that impact as a now-veteran weakside linebacker who entered the 2018 season with 222 tackles, 18.5 tackles for loss, four sacks, 30 quarterback pressures, two interceptions and four caused fumbles in 1,672 snaps over 34 games (26 starts) in his career. Those 222 tackles were third-most among active ACC players entering the season, and he has not slowed down in that aspect, leading the 2018 team in tackles (58) despite missing one game.
While he cites his first career start against Auburn in 2016 and his ensuing ACC Linebacker-of-the-Week honor as well as the national championship as two of his favorite memories on the field, both of those paled in comparison to the accomplishment he is most proud of during his time at Clemson…earning his degree in health science in December.
“That’s probably the best feeling I’ve had here…even over the ‘Natty’,” he admitted. “With my dad being from Haiti, I was the first college graduate on my father’s side of the family.
“Overall, I’ve had so much support from the community and my family, and it’s been awesome to see. Being able to make a positive impact on people who are close to me and people back home…they look up to me, and that’s awesome.
“I’ve worked really hard here throughout my years, and that’s the main thing…no one can ever say that I didn’t try to work my hardest and always be humble. I wasn’t a highly-recruited guy, but to come here, solidify my name and prove that hard work pays off is gratifying. I think that’s what my legacy would be…a humble, hard worker who has tried to make the most of his time here and impact my community and make them proud.
“No matter what you’re ranked, what people say about you or who you come in with, as long as you work hard, good things will happen.”
Joseph said he is “not special in any form or fashion” and knows he would not have made it as far as he has without his former coaches, his community, his family and the Clemson Family.
“Thank you for being such consistent fans,” he cited as his message to the Clemson Family.
“Our fans are so consistent, and they truly care about us as people and not just bodies running out on the field. No matter what time the game is or where it’s at, they’re always there. So, I would say thank you for being true fans, because there’s a difference, and that’s what Clemson fans are. It definitely helps us on the field…we don’t get all the wins without y’all.”