Ken Jennings
Coach Ken Jennings
By Ben Bradley
September 3, 2003 - A man who was paralyzed during a football game is back on the field again, this time as a coach.

It is a job that Kenneth Jennings has wanted for a long time, the opportunity to coach, to teach, to inspire.

"Coach Jennings, he knows everything he's talking about. He's been there. He's gotten hurt and he knows what you need to do and to stay healthy," said Nathan Lyles, a player at Hubbard High School.

15 years ago, Ken Jennings wasn't on the sidelines, he was on the front lines chasing down an opening kick as a middle linebacker for Simeon High School, when he took a hit that shattered him physically, not mentally.

"As I hit him, the impact, shattered the fourth vertebrae to my spinal cord. I did make that tackle, also," Jennings said. He hasn't had the use of his legs or arms since.

Jennings traces his desire to coach back to those first few weeks after his injury when his high school coach would bring him game tapes and Jennings would offer advice.

Three years ago, Hubbard High School head coach Elton Harris gave Jennings the opportunity he had been hoping for. He hired Ken Jennings as a defensive coach.

"He goes to the clinics, to the camps, NFL camps and brings things back to us that we don't know about," said Harris.

Jennings says coaching these teams from the wheelchair gives them a lesson in football and also a lesson in overcoming adversity.

"It's not just about teaching them about football, also about teaching about life. That's what I have an opportunity to do. Every year, I get a new crop of kids I get to teach about life, also," Jennings said.

Life lessons taught by example every day on the city's Southwest Side.

Hubbard High School won its first game of the season on Saturday, crushing Hyde Park 61-14.

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Last Updated: Sep 3, 2003

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