Ole Miss tight end Kenny Yeboah didn't have a single power-5 offer out of high school.
A two-star high school prospect from eastern Pennsylvania, he was recruited by Penn State, Pittsburgh and Syracuse. However, the three schools never offered the 6-foot-4, 220-pound receiver/cornerback.
Now at Ole Miss, he gets a chance to prove himself at the highest level, in the league he calls the "pre-NFL."
Moving from Rhode Island to Allentown, Pa. at 13-years-old, Yeboah was an oversized receiver and corner in high school. It was actually Temple coach Matt Rhule, now the head coach of the NFL's Carolina Panthers, that convinced him he had the talent to play at the highest level. He just needed a position change.
"I remember coach Rhule told me, 'listen you can play tight end at the next level and be a good tight end.' I just had to put on some weight and they'd teach me how to block. And honestly, I was fine with it," Yeboah said. "I knew that if I did that, I was playing wide receiver in high school, I could use that aspect of my game."
Yeboah's stats at Temple aren't eye popping, and maybe that's partially because Matt Rhule dipped from Temple to Baylor following Yeboah's freshman year. His only standout year came as a senior. Even then, he caught just 19 passes for 233 yards.
What shows promise is his average reception went for 12.3 yards, including a long of 53 yards. He shows impressive burst from a tight end position. Now standing 6-foot-5 and 240-pounds, he's also a massive threat in the red zone, catching five touchdowns a year ago. (For those keeping track, that's 26% of his receptions going for scores).
It may not be all there in the numbers, but Yeboah says that "Temple Tough" moniker has molded him. He needed to learn how to block coming out of high school. Now, he says it's one of his favorite parts of playing the game.
"I think of myself as a pass-catcher and a blocker. I know a lot of people say it, but if you turn on the film, I block. I actually enjoy blocking. I enjoy pancaking people," Yeboah said. "I take pride in my blocking. If I miss a block, I'm going to get pissed off. It's something that a lot of people don't know about me, but it was part of the Ole Miss pitch to me."
Ah, yes – the Ole Miss pitch.
Kenny Yeboah was all but a Baylor Bear just months ago. Entering his name in the transfer portal right after the end of Temple's 2019 season, he didn't take many visits. His first went to the old coach that recruited him – Matt Rule at Baylor.
But on January 7, Rhule was introduced as the new head coach of the Carolina Panthers. Yeboah didn't say that influenced his decision, but he didn't say otherwise either. The Ole Miss Rebels may very well have the Carolina Panthers to thank for landing their starting tight end in 2020.
Ole Miss and offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby had originally reached out to Yeboah actually right before he visited Baylor over the winter. He committed to the Bears, but later took a January 16 visit to Oxford. One day later, on the 17th, he committed to the Rebels.
"It just felt right, honestly. Everything kind of fell into place," Yeboah said. "I had literally bought my ticket to Baylor, but I was still talking to Ole Miss during the process. When I eventually went to Ole Miss, I just really liked it, liked the players."
There were some connections tying Yeboah with Ole Miss. Lebby was at UCF from 2017-19 as the quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator. UCF and Temple are both in the American Athletic Conference, so Yeboah got to watch that offense every year.
"I've watched our defense play against that offense," Yeboah said. "I knew that in their offense, I'd be getting the ball, getting it more. I'd have an opportunity to shine and do it at the highest level."
Then there's the Kiffin connection, which is less of a connection than it is tight end production. Harrison Bryant, Kiffin's tight end last season at Florida Atlantic, won the Mackey Award for the nation's top tight end after leading D1 football with 65 receptions, adding 1,004 receiving yards and seven touchdowns.
Yeboah doesn't really know Bryant, but they have shared a few Instagram DM's to talk about Kiffin and his system.
But for Yeboah and his decision, his talk continually turned back to the idea of playing against the best. He has NFL dreams. He calls the SEC the pre-NFL. And he's continually is thinking about the prospects of proving himself in his one pre-NFL season.
"I've always wanted to show that I can play against the best competition. What better way than to play in the pre-NFL, the SEC," Yeboah said. "Going from the American to the SEC, people may not give the American enough credit. But it's cool. The SEC, playing against Alabama and LSU and stuff every week, I think about that every day."