September 19, 2003

Born to Catch

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His teammates are always snickering. And everytime senior wide receiver John Kellner looks over at his gridiron brothers, he knows the object of that laughter — it’s his receding hairline.

“I’ve just heard about all of them by now, and I don’t even hear them anymore,” Kellner said. “I look around and I see people laughing and I just know what they’re talking about. It’s all in fun.”

Cornell’s opponents this year, though, might not have as much to laugh about. After playing only sparingly during his freshman season, Kellner burst onto the scene as a sophomore, posting 31 receptions and 437 yards. He bettered those marks as a starter opposite Keith Ferguson ’03 last season, putting up career-highs in both receptions — with 36 — and receiving yards — with 493.

This year, Kellner’s no longer the complimentary receiver — he’s expected to be the go-to guy.

“In our offense, I’m the No. 1 receiver because I’ve played the longest. But essentially all three of us [Kellner and seniors Chad Nice and Vic Yanz] are starters,” Kellner said. “Now, I’m expected to make those plays. Whereas in my sophomore year, it was kind of a surprise that I was even playing. And last year, there was Ferg. And this year, it’s going to be expected every play. That’s what I like.”

Cornell head coach Tim Pendergast is confident that Kellner can fill the void.

“Kellner’s going to be what he has been for us, but better,” Pendergast said.

If past performance is any indication, Kellner has shown the ability to be the Red’s top receiving threat. Last season, with Cornell facing fourth-and-17 from its own 28-yard line and scoreboard reading Columbia 14, Cornell 10, Kellner stepped to the forefront. The then-junior split the Lions defense and raced down the seam, catching a 44-yard bomb from senior quarterback Mick Razzano and putting Cornell at the Columbia 22-yard line with just 1:15 left on the clock. A few plays later, Razzano found Kellner again, this time for a seven-yard touchdown and the win.

Making big plays in the fourth-quarters is nothing out of the ordinary for Kellner, though. He’s a natural at the receiver position. He was born to play it. He has the genes.

“I’ve played receiver since my sophomore year of high school,” Kellner said. “My dad was a receiver in high school, scholarship to Colorado St., so I didn’t really have much of a choice but to be a wide receiver.”

Fellow seniors Nice and Yanz, who converted to receiver position, point to Kellner’s innate skills as a wideout as his biggest attribute.

“John is more of a natural receiver than both Chad and me,” Yanz said. “And you can see it just in the routes he runs, just things that are instinctual to a receiver that Chad or I or somebody else would have to think about before the play. It just happens for John.

“We can learn from John and his experience, and you can obviously tell from his hairline that he’s got more experience than all of us,” Yanz continued.

With two years of extensive playing time under his belt and the designation as Cornell’s No. 1 wideout, Kellner has just one personal goal for the upcoming season — consistency.

“Last year, I think I had too many drops. I don’t want to have a drop all season,” Kellner said. “Yeah, that’s somewhat unrealistic, but that’s what you shoot for, that’s what you practice for — perfection. To go out and be consistent week in and week out is my ultimate goal. And to lead this team and win games.”

Archived article by Alex Ip