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Francis Kanneh describes himself as a quarterback who can run but prefers to throw the ball.
History shows Kanneh, a senior at Robbinsdale Cooper, is adept at scrambling. His arrival at Cooper last fall marked the fourth high school in as many years for Kanneh, a journey he said was all about becoming a Division I quarterback.
He succeeded, signing with Southern University and A&M College, a historically black college in Baton Rouge, La. The Jaguars’ football program competes in the Division I Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division I-AA).
Kanneh, a 6-2, 215-pound left-handed quarterback, spoke to Star Tribune reporter David La Vaque about fulfilling his dream through moves from Alabama to Elk River to Brooklyn Center to Robbinsdale Cooper.
Q: You left Alabama after your freshman year rather than accepting a backup quarterback role and moved in with your aunt in Elk River. What was that adjustment like?
A: At first it was just learning about being in a different place. Elk River is like, an all-white city. And I’m from Birmingham, so I had to learn to adjust to the environment.
Q: Elk River football’s run-heavy approach was a turnoff so you transferred to Brooklyn Center. Did you find a better fit?
A: What I saw at Elk River was the players work hard in the offseason. At Brooklyn Center, I was the only one in the weight room. We went 2-7 that season and I thought, ‘No college is going to want a 2-7 quarterback.’ I don’t think I had 1,000 yards.
Q: Given the challenges at Elk River and Brooklyn Center, did you ever start questioning your decision to move to Minnesota?
A: Yeah, I was like, ‘I don’t know what I’m doing here.’ I was a little bit depressed. I’m not going to lie.
Q: Was that a big reason you transferred to Cooper?
A: Yeah, we all decided that if I went to Cooper, I would have a better chance of being looked at by colleges. The coaches played in the NFL so they really know what to tell you. Coach Willie Howard really helped me to reach out to colleges. And the players didn’t want to be average. They wanted to be great. It was the best situation for me.
Q: How else were you generating college interest for yourself?
A: I learned that recruiting is an individual thing. I had to get out and take my journey. I started e-mailing coaches. I went to a couple college camps. Those things helped me a lot.
Q: What helped you keep the faith?
A: Because my whole life I wanted to be a Division I quarterback. I didn’t move to Minnesota not to be a Division I quarterback. So I was just trying to keep my head up. My mom would say, ‘God put you here for a reason.’
Q: Looking back, are there any things you would have done differently?
A: I have no regrets. It was a tough road but it got me to where I want to be. And that’s life. I expect there to be ups and downs.
David La Vaque • 612-673-7574