Kmet overcomes injury to revamp tight end production
Hayden Adams | Thursday, October 24, 2019
Three to six weeks. That was the timetable given after Cole Kmet broke his collarbone in fall training camp.
As it worked out, the junior tight end made his anticipated return as the Irish traveled to face then-No. 3 Georgia in Athens. As Kmet said himself, his performance was worth the wait.
“It was really exciting, great atmosphere to go into, and it was a lot of fun to play in,” Kmet said. “Obviously not the outcome we really wanted but it was a good game to come back in, and obviously I had a great game, and it just felt good to get back out there with all of my teammates.”
Kmet came onto the national stage in emphatic fashion, leading the Irish with nine receptions for 108 yards and a touchdown, all career highs at the time. In fact, senior quarterback Ian Book’s first three passes of the game were to Kmet for a total of 33 yards. Kmet credited his strong performance to the approach he took: to be at his best when his chance arrived after his injury.
“After I got hurt I just kind of had a mindset of I wanted to come back as fast as I could, and then being able to be at a high level when I did come back, so just working really hard on my conditioning and running and all that type of stuff,” Kmet said. “Just kind of staying in shape so that when the time came, I was ready.”
The No. 8 Irish (5-1) suffered a 23-17 defeat to the Bulldogs, but Kmet exhibited the traits that made him such a highly touted and coveted prospect out of St. Viator High School in Arlington Heights, Illinois. The former No. 3 tight end in the class of 2017 according to Rivals.com, Kmet is now leading an Irish tight end group that has already combined for 446 receiving yards and five touchdowns after recording 544 yards and six touchdowns as a unit all of last season.
“We kind of just took a step forward this off-season and worked really hard,” Kmet said. “[Sophomore tight end] Tommy Tremble has worked really hard in the weight room, and each one of us worked really hard in fall camp. So it’s just a group that works really hard every day and we’re just trying to get better [though] practice.”
After not seeing action as a freshman, Tremble is fourth on the team with nine receptions and fifth with 136 receiving yards for two touchdowns, including the first passing touchdown of the season on a 26-yard dime from Book. Kmet, after recording only two receptions for 14 yards in four games as a freshman, has already surpassed his sophomore year totals of 15 receptions and 162 yards in nine games. In only four appearances this year, he is second among the Irish in receptions (21), receiving yards (265) and tied for second in receiving touchdowns (3).
While he may be making a splash on the gridiron, Kmet’s also made one on the baseball diamond. The 6-foot-5, 250-pound left-hander served as a relief pitcher for the Irish his first two seasons, before a brief hiatus last spring to focus on football after suffering an elbow injury. Kmet talked about the good working relationship he has splitting his time between the sports.
“They work really well together. Guys from football and guys from baseball will make sure my schedule is working out the right way,” he said. “So, there’s a good relationship there, and they’re always making sure that I’m put in a position where I’m still practicing at both, but I’m still excelling at both at the same time.”
His play in both arenas has been impressive, but when confronted with the question of which sport is better, he can’t bring himself to decide between the two.
“I can’t answer that,” he said. “Whatever season I’m in is usually what I’m liking better.”
Kmet’s ability to succeed in multiple arenas has been proven time and time again. Irish offensive coordinator Chip Long once praised Kmet’s dedication after returning from an away baseball game at 3 a.m. and being the first one in the gym for spring weight training at 6:30 a.m. What’s more, his physical dominance is rare, allowing him to brush off a below-the-knees tackle on the goal line against rival USC and saying it “felt great.”
Following a tough 30-27 win over the rival Trojans (4-3), in which Kmet scored the opening touchdown for the Irish, he said it was good for the team to get a bye to rest and recuperate.
“I think it was important. It was a good time for guys to reset,” Kmet said. “It was a good time for guys to just go home, decompress and kind of do their own thing for a little bit.”
Now, with Saturday’s matchup looming against No. 19 Michigan in Ann Arbor, Kmet said the team is well-prepared to take on the Wolverines (5-2).
“We feel really good about it,” he said. “We’ve now had close to two weeks of preparation, so it’s been a good two weeks and we feel really good and ready to go.”
With Kmet in the lead, “Tight End U” should be well-equipped to take care of business.