Gary Kennedy is an athlete who responds to challenges.
A walk-on at Morgan State, he not only made the team, but also has been a starter for most of three seasons.
Another challenge awaits Kennedy and his teammates this week -- preparing for Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference rival Delaware State (4-2, 1-1). The Hornets will be the homecoming opposition when the Bears seek to halt a seven-game losing streak Saturday (2 p.m.) at Hughes Stadium.
"Really, Central State [a 63-13 winner in the first game] is the only team to physically handle us," Kennedy, a senior, said yesterday. "Otherwise, people are telling us we've done a good job."
The major problems have been on the other side of the ball. The offense has had trouble getting in gear, and in the past three weeks there have been 12 muffs on punts (seven blocked and five in which the ball was centered over the punter's head). Each of the 12 led to opponents' points and four of the five bad snaps were recovered in the end zone for touchdowns.
Kennedy, a 6-foot-2, 245-pound linebacker, is third on the team in tackles with 54, including two for losses. He also has recovered a fumble, intercepted a pass and broken up two passes.
"We have an attacking defense, and that is easier and gets better results than sitting back and waiting," he said. "Last year I was moved to defensive end, but the coaches moved me back to linebacker in the spring. I play the same way all the time, and I think the coaches wanted that consistent level.
"I prefer linebacker to the line. You can see more, and I can use my skills -- speed and pursuit -- better."
Opponents often run plays in his direction to get away from James Dozier, a senior defensive end on the weak side. Dozier has 46 tackles, five for losses, and a MEAC-high 10 1/2 sacks.
Kennedy is from Oakville in St. Mary's County and graduated from Leonardtown High School, where -- as the biggest man -- he played football both ways at a tackle position for three years.
This year, his life is especially structured; he has football, carries an 18-hour academic load in which he has a 2.7 grade-point average in business administration and is president of a social organization. "You know what you have to do, and you do it. When you put things off, you tend to forget them."
Of the losses, he said: "We get the game out of our system on Saturday night and Sunday. By Monday, we are ready to go back to work. Our defense is really close. We go out and give our all, and expect that from the person next to us. Everybody on defense had a taste of winning last year [4-6-1], and I think it is reflected in our play this year. Everybody is hungry for a win."