Written by Jeff Morris
Photo by Kennedy Harvey
To say that football runs through her veins is an understatement.
Kennedy Harvey, a former Carleton journalism student and part of the Ravens football program through various roles she held while on campus, grew up in the game and on the field.
“My dad is a high school football coach,” said the Simcoe, Ontario native. “My whole life was spent going to practices and games with him, or watching my brothers play. Football was a big part of our family life.”
Since leaving Carleton, Harvey proved that you don’t have to be a football player or a high-level coach to carve out a good career within the game. She left Carleton to pursue opportunities in football and continue her studies in the U.S. She completed her journalism degree at Texas Christian University while working for the Horned Frogs, and then moved on to the University of Southern California and worked in the Trojans program. In May, she graduated from the University of San Francisco with a Master’s Degree in Sports Management.
This month, she started in her new full-time position, working with the Liberty University football program in recruiting.
Harvey’s knowledge and love of the game instantly shattered any barriers she may have faced as a female breaking into the world of football. After years of being on the football field with her father, she became a receivers coach at her high school while she was still a student.
As a journalism student at Carleton, it only made sense that she would cover what she knew best, and that was football.
“I didn’t know anyone when I got to Ottawa, but that’s what was familiar to me,” she said. “I started watching practices and games. I got involved with goravens.ca and became a sports information assistant and started writing stories about not just the football team, but hockey and some feature stories and whatever they needed. But football was always my passion.”
Eventually, she was approached by Carleton ravens head coach Steve Sumarah.
“Steve came up to me one day and said, ‘Don’t take this the wrong way, but why are you here? What are you doing around us all the time?’ I explained my love for the game and my love for football and the family atmosphere, and he welcomed we with open arms.”
Before long, Harvey was more than just a reporter. She became a coach for the Junior Ravens program. Nobody noticed or cared that she was the first female to coach at the camp. What mattered was the pedigree and experience she brought to the camp, as well as the ability to connect with the young players.
“I wouldn’t be where I am if it weren’t for him,” Harvey said of Sumarah. “He never put limitations on what I could accomplish and he was always pushing me to reach new heights.”
Eventually, Sumarah had a conversation with Harvey and suggested that if she was really serious about a career in football, she would look at going to the United States at some point. He told her that she “had what it takes” to be successful in football, and that there were a lot more opportunities south of the border. Harvey took the advice and applied to continue her journalism studies at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, TX, just a few miles west of Dallas.
“If it weren’t for people like (Coach Sumarah) never putting limitations on what I could achieve, I don’t know if I ever would have gotten to the States or been able to get where I am today,” she said. “I’m just so thankful I never had someone who told me I couldn’t do something. They just pushed me and were always challenging me to reach my full potential. I’m just very, very grateful that it all started at Carleton.”
Harvey said her transition into the high-profile journalism program at TCU was seamless. She chose TCU because it was a school that combined the emphasis on academics with a strong culture in sports and football.
“I was welcomed with open arms and it just felt like the place I was supposed to be,” she said.
Although she grew up in a football family, moving to Texas exposed her to an entirely new level with love, passion and obsession for the game.
“It was a bit of a culture shock but in the best possible way,” she said. “When I told people I worked for the team, I was like a celebrity. I was honestly treated so different. They admire anyone who is associated with the game.”
Harvey said the community support and the passionate fandom is something you can’t describe unless you experience it, from high school through the college game. She said there is nothing like a college game day.
“It reminded me a lot of the Panda Game, except every weekend you are getting that,” she said. “You’re getting the energy and you’re getting the fan support. It was the coolest atmosphere. For the first time I thought, ‘This is exactly where I’m supposed to be.’”
While working on her degree, Harvey became experienced in football operations. In January, 2018, Harvey was invited to participated in the NFL Women’s Careers in Football Forum in Florida. She was one of four Canadians among the 50 participants.
After the forum, Harvey was selected for an internship to work with the Carolina Panthers of the NFL. She had met Panthers Coach Ron Rivera at the forum. Rivera recognized her name on the application from the forum, and wanted to give her an opportunity.
“There are a lot of people who say they are committed to diversifying the industry, but this man’s commitment goes above and beyond anyone else’s,” she said. “He just makes so many strides to give opportunities to people who wouldn’t otherwise have them. He brought Jennifer King on as a coaching assistant during that same camp.”
Working in the NFL was a great learning and networking opportunity for Harvey. However, at the end of the day, she said she is happiest working in the college football environment.
“The rivalries, the passion, the support, the community that you get with college is just unmatched,” she said. “What I love about college is that everyone is working toward a goal. I love college because I feel like I can have an impact on people’s lives.”
Harvey said she has had the chance to learn something at every stop on her football journey. Those experiences, from high school to Carleton to TCU to USC and the NFL, have helped her gain a thorough knowledge of the ins and outs of the business and operations of the game.
“There is no real education for football,” she said. “There is only experience. I’ve had experience as the coach’s daughter. I’ve had experience as a coach. I’ve had experience in journalism, in PR, in operations, in recruiting, so I’ve seen a very well-rounded perspective of the game of football.
Although she has been on a whirlwind tour of football in America for the past five years, Harvey still finds time to stay true to her roots and follow the Ravens. She watches every Carleton game on OUA.TV.
“No matter where I am or what we have going on, I’m always streaming the games,” she said. “If we’re on the road and in the hotel, I am watching the games.
“I just appreciate Carleton so much and what they did for me. I know I would not be where I am without them and without people supporting me. That was one of the most incredible things – how I was received in the program by everyone from the coaching staff to the players and the support staff. Everyone was so incredible. To this day I get messages from some of the players saying, ‘Wow, you’re dong big things and we’re so proud of you.’ You don’t forget that.
“Carleton is a big part of who I am and my journey and my story doesn’t exist without them.”
To listen to the full interview with Kennedy Harvey, listen to the Carleton Ravens Football Podcast.