CHANDLER, Ariz. (BVM) – Much of the buzz surrounding nationally No. 9-ranked Chandler High School is its five-star quarterback and Ohio State commit Dylan Raiola. The son of former NFL offensive lineman Dominic Raiola, Dylan is the No. 1 overall recruit in the Class of 2024 and has thrown for 1,198 yards and 14 touchdowns through six games this season as the Wolves are off to an undefeated start.
But as explosive as Chandler’s offense is, it’s the Wolves’ defense that has been utterly dominant.
Allowing just 12 points per game and having pitched two shutouts already this season, the Chandler defense is led up front by four-star defensive lineman and Oregon commit A’Mauri Washington. The back end of this suffocating defense, however, is led by the son of another former NFL star.
Junior defensive back Kennedy Urlacher is the son of 13-year NFL linebacker Brian Urlacher. One of the most decorated defensive players in NFL history, Brian’s accolades include the NFL Rookie of the Year Award (2000), NFL Defensive Player of the Year (2005), eight Pro Bowl selections and induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame (2018).
The Chicago Bears’ legend was known for being a hard-hitting defender during his Hall of Fame career, and now his son is earning the same reputation.
“It’s his physicality,” Chandler head coach Rick Garretson said of Kennedy. “He’s just a physical player and he’s got really good football IQ. He does a great job of being the leader of that back end at the free safety spot.
Brian's son Kennedy is a Class of 2024 safety prospect and he was bringing the lumber like his pops over the weekend 👇@k_urlacher11 | @adamgorney | @BUrlacher54 | 🎥: @RivalsDave pic.twitter.com/wwdM9o1WEx
— Rivals (@Rivals) September 7, 2022
“He’s made some unbelievable hits. I mean, like, jeez, I don’t know how the other kids got up.”
Kennedy’s strongest trait at the moment is coming downhill from his free safety position to lay the wood on a ball carrier, but he’s also flashed his ability as a playmaker.
The 6-foot-1, 180-pound safety earned co-player of the game honors in Chandler’s season-opening win over Cathedral Catholic for tallying six total tackles and a 94-yard scoop-and-score touchdown on a fumble return. The next week, Kennedy intercepted a pass and returned it 23 yards during the Wolves’ 50-0 win over Corona del Sol in their first shutout of the season.
Game 1 highlights vs. Cathedral Catholic! pic.twitter.com/qlhLtIXe3n
— Kennedy Urlacher (@k_urlacher11) September 4, 2022
“Everybody on the defense is physical and relentless,” Kennedy said. “If you catch the ball on us or if you run the ball, you’re going to get hit and you’re going to get hit hard.”
Kennedy is right when he says that everybody on Chandler’s hard-hitting defense is both physical and relentless. It’s part of the reason they’ve only allowed 76 points though six games.
Aside from Kennedy and Washington, Roman Kupu, his brother, Orion, Dominic Hanger and Juma Kashanda help make up a strong defensive unit that Garretson is proud of.
“Those dudes are all assassins and I seriously mean that; all of them,” Garretson said. “They’re going to find a way to get to you and inflict physicality.”
In addition to having a Hall of Fame father and a wealth of football knowledge at his disposal, Kennedy also gets to experience something most elite high school defenders don’t: competing against the nation’s top QB prospect in practice every day.
“It’s great going against them,” Kennedy said of seeing Dylan and the Wolves’ offense every day in practice. “It makes everybody on the defense a lot better and those guys are better than really everybody we’ll play this year so it’s good.”
While Dylan’s college future in Columbus is set, Kennedy’s is still up in the air.
The three-star safety has already picked up offers from Arizona, Northern Arizona, Iowa and New Mexico – where his father’s No. 44 jersey is retired — but Kennedy is hoping a strong junior campaign will result in more contact from Power 5 coaches. It certainly will once more programs lay eyes on the athletic, hard-hitting and ball-hawking safety who also happens to be the son of one of the greatest defensive players of the modern era.
“I’m just going to try to wait it out, see what happens and we’ll go from there,” Kennedy said.
But before Kennedy gets back on the recruiting trail in the spring, the undefeated Wolves have unfinished business. After falling to Saguaro in the Open Division Championship last season – ending its streak of six consecutive state titles – Chandler appears poised to reclaim its spot atop the Arizona high school football mountain.
“If we bring our ‘A’ game, we’re going to be hard to beat,” Garretson said.
“Definitely a state championship,” Kennedy said of what this team is capable of.
Mid season highlights! https://t.co/HNZotvYBww
— Kennedy Urlacher (@k_urlacher11) October 11, 2022