Zone Read: Creating Their Own Path

Arizona Sports News online

A Deeper Meaning Than Football

No one will ever mistake Bullhead City for a high school hot spot, but a handful of Division I college recruiters, including Army, are now quite familiar with the area.

Local Mohave High senior Jonathon Williams probably isn’t a name many recognize, but his play over the last two seasons for the 3A Thunderbirds has left lasting impressions for MHS’s opponents.

Williams’ hard work has paid off, landing him a scholarship opportunity at West Point.

After playing a myriad of positions at Mohave – including running back, quarterback, linebacker, defensive end, and even punter, Williams will transition to full-time linebacker for the Black Knights in 2024.

He immediately established a tight bond with head coach Jeff Monken and his future coaches. 

“It was the staff,” the soft-spoken Williams said to “Zone Read” when asked what eventually sold him on Army. “I’ve been to a lot of colleges and the Army staff was really nice. There was something about their staff that made me feel really at home.”

A decade ago, home was big city Chicago before relocating to Bullhead City, which sits 35 miles west of Kingman in the northern corner of the state. 

The adjustment from the third-largest city in the country to Bullhead’s quaint community of just under 45,000 wasn’t always easy, but Williams has made the most of his opportunity, working hard on the field, and even harder in the classroom, to fulfill a promise he made to his mom, Mika.

“I’m just trying to make my mom proud,” Williams, who also wrestles at Mohave, explained. “She wasn’t able to finish college when she went. So me [going to Army], makes me know that my mom is proud. Just letting her know I’m going to college, and I’m doing this for her.”

Mika’s college advice, according to Jonathon, has been simple and to the point.

“She makes sure my head is on straight and not to do dumb things,” Williams said with a chuckle. “She knows.”

Make no mistake, his head is on straight – with a 3.6 GPA, and a higher level of leadership (and maturity) on the field as he prepares for his senior season.

“Jon was mostly a lead-by-example kid, but he has grown into a vocal leader,” Mohave head coach Rudy Olvera explained to the “Zone Read.” “All the attention from college coaches has not had an affect on him as a student/athlete. He is not only talented, but extremely coachable, which is a direct reflection on how he was raised.”

All of Mohave County will be following Williams’ journey closely from across the country.

“We are very excited to see him play and he has definitely earned the right to play at the Division I level,” Olvera said. “Playing at an institution like West Point truly shows what kind of young man he is.”

Next fall Williams’ journey will take him from the dry desert banks of the Colorado River, to the lush, tree-lined ones of the Hudson in upstate New York.

The structured, regimented cadet life awaits.

For now, his focus now is leading the Thunderbirds to another 3A West Region Championship and playoff berth this fall.

Persistent Through the Process

A year ago Devan Kennedy, by his own admission, didn’t know how to play football.

Occasionally, Father Time ages right before our eyes – in just a matter of months.

In early April, “Zone Read” sat down with the Brophy senior defensive lineman who took us through his unique athletic road map, which succinctly pivoted from the hard wood to the gridiron after Kennedy transferred from Deer Valley to BCP.

On April 2nd Kennedy had one offer, his first, from Fordham.

Now, he’s on his way to play on one of the top defenses in the nation.

“They’ve proved time and time again that they develop excellent football players,” Kennedy said of the Hawkeyes. “I trust and enjoy being around the coaches that made that possible.”

Eventually, the big schools found him. Besides Iowa, the 6-foot-3, 240-pounder held offers from Illinois, Oregon State, and dad Jimmy Kennedy’s alma mater, Penn State.

While Kennedy’s fast-track from football novice to a Power 5, 3-star recruit in less than one full calendar year is extremely rare, the diligent work he did to transform his body from a slender basketball player into a powerfully constructed high-level college football player, is quite the testament.

“Never seen progress like this in 20 years of coaching,” Brophy head coach Jason Jewell said to the “Zone Read.” “I have seen kids’ recruitment blow up but never seen anyone completely transform their body this quickly.

“His weight gain, his progress in the weight room and his improvement on the field has been tremendous. This ultimately led to him getting multiple Power 5 offers after great camps, and then committing to Iowa.”

To be fair, not every story will end this way. Jimmy was an All-American, NFL first round selection, and Super Bowl Champion. No one can deny Devan has always had dad’s football genes. However, the weights didn’t lift themselves, the protein shakes didn’t blend themselves, and Jimmy’s regimented off-season training sessions didn’t take many days off.

In the spring we suggested Kennedy’s story had the makings of a made-for-Hollywood movie.

Looks like it’s time to pen another chapter.

Something tells me the best is yet to come.