Britt’s high school coach says he saw something special

Thursday, April 30, 2009 at 2:08am
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 Titans' first round draft pick Kenny Britt with Coach Jeff Fisher. Mike Strasinger for The City Paper

Kenny Britt displayed the air of confidence a team wants to see in its wide receivers during the press conference Sunday introducing the former Rutgers star as the Tennessee Titans top pick in the 2009 NFL Draft.

“I believe I have the receiver attitude when I’m on the field and the ball is in the air, I believe the ball is mine when it is in the air,” Britt said. “Other than that, I just want to do anything to help my teammates out. That is how I have been since I was a little kid and everything. 

“It is more about winning the game and helping my team out than me personally.”

That type of attitude and statement isn’t surprising to the man who watched Britt develop and helped him along the way — Frank Blunda.

Blunda was Britt’s high school football coach at Bayonne (N.J.) High School and saw the prospect’s development right before his eyes.

“I think with every catch he made throughout high school and with every big play, it became more apparent to him that physically he was just much better than the competition he was facing at that point in time,” explained Blunda about seeing Britt’s confidence grow. “He had some success as a junior, and an equal amount of success as a senior. He just kind of developed that attitude as he went a long, catching the ball in practice and in different situations throughout.”

A highlight play from a scrimmage Britt’s freshman year is still etched in Blunda’s mind — primarily because a coach at rival Newton High School won’t let him forget it.

“It was a scrimmage game, and the team we were scrimmaging, Newton High School, their head coach brings up every year the athletic play Kenny made over one of his defenders,” Blunda said. “Kenny went up tipped the ball to himself, did a 360, caught the ball and ran 30 yards for a touchdown.

“He still shows the film to his kids before we play them every year to show them what they might be up against. He just couldn’t believe how athletic the kid was. That play stands out in my mind, because it’s brought to the forefront every year when we play Newton High School.”

Blunda, who acknowledged that Britt is his first Bayonne Fighting Bees player to reach the NFL, said he recognized early on what a special talent the young receiver had.

“I guess early on in his sophomore year, you were kind of seeing him developing as a football player, with his size, stature and physical makeup,” Blunda said. “And after his junior year, by that point, you knew his future was going to be at a Division I school.”

The Division I school turned out to be nearby Rutgers, where Britt was extremely productive. For the Scarlet Knights he hauled in 87 receptions for 1,371 yards and seven touchdowns in 2008 as a junior. His production at Rutgers improved every year, going from 29 catches in 2006 as a freshman to 62 receptions in 2007.

He continued to grow, both physically (6-4, 215 pounds) and mechanically as a football player.

Britt said he has always prided himself on being a tough receiver, even at a young age.

“That really just comes from me as a little kid. I used to be outside all the time getting hurt and everything and playing through adversity,” Britt said. “Regardless of what happens, I’m going to go out there and play for my team. Regardless I’m coming out there with broken ribs or something. That has been me my whole life.”

Blunda said Britt’s passion and dedication to football show through, but what’s harder to detect initially is that Britt can surprise with his sense of humor as well.

“He has a great sense of humor,” he said. “He’s a little bit of a jokester, but he’s passionate about the game and enjoys competition. He practices with a lot of enthusiasm, and has a real good understanding of the game.”

As for being a potential behavior or locker room problem, Blunda said none of that was evident in Britt during his time at Bayonne. And the one time a problem flared, it may have been a blessing in disguise.

While at Rutgers, Britt was suspended for a game last season for a violation of a team rule in the spring. But Britt’s father Jack told the Newark Star-Ledger that the aftermath of that one-game ban was when his son “started to get serious and focused.”

Blunda can vouch for Britt.

“He was a good kid. He was pretty much like every other high school kid. He went about his business, put in his time in the weight room, studied film and was preparing for football at the next level.”

The week before the draft, Britt made an appearance at his old high school to help at a fundraiser for a Bayonne player that had suffered a medical and financial hardship.

Because of Britt, the Titans now have a bit of fan base in Bayonne, right in the heart of Jets and Giants country.

“The [Titans] shirts are flying out of Modell’s [Sporting Goods],” Blunda said. “I’m very happy for Kenny and what he accomplished at Rutgers for himself. And now I’m excited to see him play for the Titans.”

Perhaps not as excited as Britt himself, who upon being drafted by Tennessee said it felt like Christmas morning.

“For me, it’s like a little kid on Christmas. I’m surprised and really happy and blessed with the opportunity to live out my dream,” he said on Sunday.

Coach Jeff Fisher thinks he’s the one that got the Christmas present.

“He’s strong and explosive, and he’s an out of frame catcher,” Fisher said. “For a tall guy, he can adjust to the low ball. He’s one of those guys that if you put the ball up, he can catch it.”

Maybe that’s where the air of confidence comes from.

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