Raines High School star Kenton Kirkland inspired by fast sisters

For most of his sporting life, Kenton Kirkland didn’t focus on the Super 11.

Just keeping up with the star sisters on the trail was enough of a challenge.

“Growing up in a house full of athletes, it was quite difficult, especially being the youngest,” he said.

Spend years chasing fast siblings in the sports world, and good things are sure to happen.

At least that’s the plan that landed Kirkland, now entering his senior season at Raines, on the Times-Union’s annual Super 11 list of Northeast Florida’s top football recruits.

And it was the plan that paved the way for his Monday night commitment to play college football at Florida State, selecting the Seminoles ahead of Kentucky.

The Raines defensive back continues the Vikings’ long and proud tradition in the Super 11, a roster that includes famous defensive names like Derrick Alexander, Lito Sheppard and Pro Football Hall of Famer Brian Dawkins.

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Kenton Kirkland the last Raines High player to make our Super 11

Oddly enough, though Raines has produced many linemen, linebackers and receivers on the Super 11, Kirkland is the school’s first defensive back to make the annual roster since safety and eventual signing Illinois Donsay. Hardman in 2005.

And like her older sisters, Kirkland is on track to continue her career in the Sunshine State.

Kirkland began his sporting adventure around the age of 5, playing both track and football.

But he had some catching up to do to try and keep up with his older sisters Kendall, who is now entering her first year as hurdlers and jumpers at Florida Atlantic, and Kai’lyn, in her second season in the sprints at the UCF. Both sisters became first-team All-First Coast selections themselves.

“I’ve always been known as the brother of the Kirkland sisters,” he said. “But I always wanted to make a name for myself.”

He became a star of two sports, in athletics and football, in his own right.

During Kirkland’s junior football year, he completed one pass and broke 12 others. He also has the versatility to play multiple high school roles, a valuable trait for college football scouts. He received more than 20 scholarship offers, including Florida, LSU, Miami and Michigan, before choosing the Seminoles.

“I want more interceptions just from a personal standpoint, and as a team I want to get back to that champion status that Raines has always held,” Kirkland said. “That’s how they became known as a championship team.”

We must not forget his talent on the track. In 2021, Kirkland scored a thrilling victory with his anchor leg in the final 4×400-meter relay at the Bob Hayes Invitational, helping Raines pass three schools in the final event to claim the school’s first team title at the Bob Hayes Invitational. of meeting at home for a quarter of a century. .

Although injuries hampered his spring track season, he holds a personal best 48.79 in his best event, the 400. He has won district and regional championships at distance and placed third in the championship of the Florida High School Athletic Association in 2021.

He’s also carrying on a family tradition in the Super 11. His uncle, Ephesians Bartley, achieved Super 11 recognition as a linebacker at Fletcher in 1986, later playing under Steve Spurrier at the University of Florida and earning a selection of Philadelphia Eagles’ ninth-round NFL draft in 1992.

The athletic journey that began with those family meets now leads Kirkland into elite business as he strives to make lasting marks in the history of the Northwest Jacksonville program.

“It’s definitely something you have to respect,” Kirkland said. “You’ve got big shoes to fill with these names like Lito Sheppard, Brian Dawkins, and possibly being ranked as one of those greats. It just makes me want to work harder to get my name up there with these guys- the. .”

Clayton Freeman covers high school sports and more for the Florida Times-Union. Follow him on Twitter at @CFreemanJAX.

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