Sunday, May 23, 2010

Kennedy Pola Likes New Test

When Kennedy Pola turned down a contract extension from the Jacksonville Jaguars and signed with the Titans in January, he said he was looking forward to the challenges of a new organization.

It looks as if he'll have his share.

The job of the Titans' new running backs coach already has been complicated by the absence of franchise cornerstone Chris Johnson, who's missed voluntary organized team activities thus far in hopes of procuring a new contract.

Also on Pola's plate are a couple of high-profile free-agent rookies: LeGarrette Blount made headlines last season for a nationally televised punch that led to a long suspension at Oregon, while Stafon Johnson is recovering from a devastating throat injury he suffered at Southern Cal last season.

"Sure, there are always challenges," said Pola, who spent the past five seasons as the Jaguars' running backs coach.

"You have a 2,000-yard rusher and the best NFL team two years ago, and then to (try to improve on that), people are like, 'Whoa.' But I love that challenge. You want your players to have that, 'Let's compete (attitude). Let's find a way to get better and let's keep improving. I can sit back and be comfortable, but I want to be improving and keep getting better.' "

One could argue that Kennedy has been dealing with difficulties since the day he was born, Nov. 22, 1963, which just happened to coincide with a tragic event in U.S. history. President John F. Kennedy was assassinated that day, prompting Pola's grieving parents to give their son Kennedy's name as a result. Pola grew up in American Samoa, a small island in the South Pacific, and had to learn to speak English fluently while attending USC on a football scholarship from 1982-85.

"I like teaching because when guys say they can't learn, it's hard for me to understand," Pola said. "I had to learn the English language and the culture here. I was very (hesitant) in terms of not knowing the right pronunciation or the right word, so now it makes it fun for me to communicate. I say to guys, 'I know you can learn. If I can learn, you can learn.' "

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