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Georgia Southern Football
Wide receiver Sam Kenerson battling back up depth chart
Sam Kenerson
Georgia Southern wide receiver Sam Kenerson hauls in a pass during a practice at Paulson Stadium on Tuesday, April 16. Kennerson is working his way back from an injury that sidelined him through all of the 2023 season. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff

All of the quarterbacks on this year’s Eagle roster were brought to Georgia Southern to run head coach Clay Helton’s offense. There is however, one player that is still on the team that was recruited to Georgia Southern as an option-based quarterback, but has made the transition to receiver.

The journey has been long and at some times frustrating for Eagle receiver Sam Kenerson. One of the most popular players on the team, Kenerson has had to deal with his fair share of ups and downs in his time at Georgia Southern.

Recruited by Chad Lunsford’s staff to be a quarterback in an option-based offense, Kenerson played in only two games at special teams his freshman year. He then played in seven games his sophomore season, completing 2-of-3 passes and had nine carries for 35 yards. He was moved late in the season to receiver and caught two passes for 19-yards.

Kenerson finally looked like he found a spot in head coach Clay Helton’s offense with eight receptions for 130 yards in the first two games of the 2022 season before tearing his ACL against Nebraska in a game in which he was selected to wear the number "0" jersey which is a sign of respect from the coaches and players.

“I had only played in two games, but things were going so well,” Kenerson said. “It was hard to accept that the season was going to be over for me, but I tried to just do my best to be there for my teammates and I was trying to get my mind right to start the long rehab process.”

Kenerson’s positive attitude despite having his promising season cut short was something that coaches noticed.

“You look over there and Sam is on crutches with a smile on his face cheering his teammates on,” Helton said. “He is as good a person as he is a player. When you see a guy that has been through what he has been through and how much he is willing to put his body through to get back to the game he loves it is quite an inspiration.”

Kenerson was hopeful that he would be back for the 2023 season, but was unable to get back to where he or the coaching staff had wanted and was redshirted.

“After working hard in rehab, I thought I’d be able to get back out there last year, but it just didn’t work out,” Kenerson said. “Last year was a grind with the mental battle almost as much as it was a physical battle.”

Kenerson said he relied a lot on his faith to get him through the tough times.

“With God’s help it is much easier to push through these tough times,” Kenerson said. “Last year I worked as much on things like my faith and my mental toughness as the physical preparation. If I come in and I am down and hanging my head, that can rub off on someone else. If you show that you have joy and are happy everyone around you is going to move accordingly.”

First year offensive coordinator Ryan Aplin didn’t have as much contact with Kenerson as tight ends coach, but admits to be pulled in by his warmth and positivity in the middle of his struggles the last two years.

“Everyone talks about loving football, but Sam lives football,” Aplin said. “It doesn’t define who he is, but it is what he loves to do. He loves competing and being with his teammates. To have a guy out there last year that we knew couldn’t help us at all on the field, but to see that energy he brought on a daily basis shows how much he loves the game. He was kind of living through what they were doing and rooting them on.”

This spring Kenerson has been singled out on more than a few occasions by Helton for the work he is doing on the field. Helton says Aplin has a few plays he has drawn up especially for Kenerson who is anxious to put those plays in motion this fall.

“I feel like I am finally back to where I was before my injury,” Kenerson said. “Spring has gone great and I am just blessed to be back. What I have learned the most through all of this this is to just keep working and trying to keep the focus on the present. Eventually things will pay off you just have to keep God first and keep going forward and not looking back.”

The Eagles will hold their annual Blue/White scrimmage to end the spring drills Saturday at noon at Paulson Stadium. Admission is free and there will be an autograph session after the game on the field.

Saturday evening caps off with GATAJAM, featuring Cole Swindell with Rhett Akins, Jon Langston and Mackenzie Carpenter. Gates at Beautiful Eagle Creek are scheduled to open at 5 p.m. More information on set times and parking will be released later. A portion of the proceeds raised from GATAJAM will benefit Eagle Nation Collective, the official NIL Collective of Georgia Southern Athletics. Tickets can be purchased at