Ailene Voisin

Ailene Voisin: Journey from Jesuit reaches bowl season for Kilgore

Logan Kilgore? You probably never heard much about him, either. He was the scrawny kid on the sideline, the backup quarterback who cracked jokes, pulled pranks and failed to take a snap in his four seasons at Jesuit High School.

But that phrase by the Beatles? The one about coming in through the bathroom window? That would be Kilgore.

When no one was looking, except perhaps his parents, his sister and his best friend, Dominic Carmazzi, the scrawny kid sneaked onto center stage. He became a community college starter at Bakersfield, then became an accomplished Division I quarterback at Middle Tennessee State, and finally became the man who will lead the Blue Raiders against Navy on Monday in the Armed Forces Bowl in Fort Worth, Texas. Then Tuesday, he will sign with an agent and begin preparing for the NFL combine.

All this, and not a single snap in high school. Think about that for a minute. In an era spent gorging on sabermetrics and analytics, a time when coaches become bug-eyed from staring at game film and recruiters spend more hours in airports than their living rooms, Kilgore was the one who went shopping for scholarships.

“I walked into the head coach’s office at Bakersfield because the best junior college competition is in Southern California, and said, ‘I’m gonna play quarterback here,’ Kilgore said during a brief visit home recently. “When he asked for game film, I said, ‘Well, coach, I don’t have any. I was a backup in high school.’ He told me that if I couldn’t play at high school, he didn’t think I could play here. But I said I was still coming to his school.”

By the end of the first week, Kilgore had moved from seventh to first on the depth chart. He decided to grayshirt his 2008 freshman season anyway, mainly to acclimate to college life but also to add some much-needed muscle. A year later, he threw for 2,512 yards and 22 touchdowns, led Bakersfield to a 10-2 record and lured current Cal offensive coordinator Tony Franklin – at Middle Tennessee at the time – to the Central California campus.

Franklin watched Kilgore throw three or four passes and then handed over his cellphone. Blue Raiders coach Rick Stockstill, speaking from his office in Murfreesboro, Tenn., invited the quarterback for a visit. Soon afterward, he offered a full scholarship.

“Sometimes guys get overlooked,” said Stockstill, “but you only need one person to fall in love with you. And Logan can play. He is a drop-back guy with an extremely quick release and a strong, accurate arm. He’s a very good athlete and a better runner than he believes he is. We put in some bootlegs, but I wish he would have run even more.”

Kilgore’s progression was incremental in some respects and surprisingly swift in others. It took awhile to add 15 pounds of muscle to his wiry 6-foot-3, 206-pound frame, and his sophomore season was hampered by injuries. But the past two years he led the Blue Raiders to consecutive 8-4 records, including four fourth-quarter comebacks; set school records for touchdown passes, 200-yard passing games and passing attempts; and is second in total passing yards and completions.

A one-time taekwondo national champion, Kilgore, 23, also earned bachelor and master’s degrees and found time to maintain close relationships with his parents, Bob and Laura, his only sister, Taylor, and his best friend, Carmazzi.

The sibling story is almost sweeter than cotton candy. Taylor, 25, a former basketball player at Humboldt State, interned at a television station in Nashville after graduation to be closer to her brother. Her admittedly biased scouting report reads something like this: Cannon of an arm. Great intangibles. Excellent escapability. Shocking ability to make late-game plays with his feet or his arm.

“During the game against Marshall, I anchored sports that night and raced home to catch the final minutes,” she said. “When Logan threw the touchdown pass in the last second, I had tears in my eyes. I stood there, all alone, jumping up and down and screaming.”

Now a full-time sports anchor in Grand Island, Neb., Taylor describes a tight-knit family and an active childhood dominated by a shared passion for Brett Favre and sports and an intense sister-brother rivalry that routinely featured martial arts clashes in the family living room in Rocklin.

“Logan and I are both second-degree black belts,” she said, laughing, “and we were constantly sparring. We still get after it. My mom hates it because she’s afraid one of us is going to get hurt.”

Only half-jokingly, Taylor said it was far more painful to watch her brother standing on the sideline during his four years in high school. Carmazzi, Jesuit’s starting quarterback at the time, and the son of then-head coach Dan Carmazzi, acknowledged a “tough situation” for Logan.

“We both wanted to play,” he said, “and with my dad being the coach, I’m sure there were people talking. But I had just developed quicker at that point. Logan always had height and big hands, and I always knew he could play. He just needed to grow into his body.”

And here’s why the situation was tolerable at worst, enjoyable at best: Dominic and Logan are best friends.

“I don’t even think we had a conversation about it,” said Carmazzi, who attended Sacramento State and Sacramento City College before completing his eligibility at Avila University in Kansas City, Mo., “but his journey has been even more interesting than mine.”

Kilgore, who speaks often with Carmazzi, will have his sister, his parents and other relatives in the stands Monday. He’s upbeat, eager, philosophical. Attending Jesuit enabled him to practice against tough competition, he says. Attending community college gave him time to mature, he says. Attending Middle Tennessee, the largest university in the state, introduced him to a different environment, exposed him to major college football, nudged him into a bowl game and toward a possible NFL career, he says.

No regrets, no fears.

“Brett Favre has been my idol,” he said, “and I like to think I have a little bit of that gunslinger attitude. I have never been accused of being too cool, and I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I think that’s part of my evolution as a quarterback.”