Countdown to Kickoff: 35 days away with kicker/punter Taiten Winkel, defensive back Jairus Kennedy

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Leading up to the start of K-State's 2021 football season, the Collegian takes a look at what to expect and highlights every player on the roster. (Archive photo by Dylan Connell | Collegian Media Group)

The countdown to kickoff continues, focusing on two redshirt players; junior Taiten Winkel and freshman Jairus Kennedy.

Upperclassmen Taiten Winkel comes to Manhattan from Halstead, Kansas. Aside from being a two-year letter winner at Halstead, Winkel also holds the record for the longest field goal in school history and averaged 42 yards-per-punt during his high school career.

Outside of football, Winkel also lettered in soccer and basketball.

Winkel went on to play two seasons at Butler Community College after high school. He had a total of 49 punts averaging 38.7 yards-per-punt as a sophomore, earning him second-team all-conference honors.

As a sophomore, Winkel kicked two punts for 74 and 76 yards — the two longest punts in school history.

Before coming to Kansas State, Winkel played at Butler with current Wildcat teammates Hillard Cozine, Dawson Delforge and Ty Zentner.

Winkel made headlines in the JUCO football world after officially committing to K-State in 2019.

While he did not see any game action in 2020, Winkle could potentially see the field in the future, thanks to his work ethic and talent.

Next up is redshirt freshman Jairus Kennedy, a 6 foot 1 inch, 175-pound defensive back from Wichita, Kansas.

Kennedy played at Kapaun Mt. Carmel Catholic High School under head coach Dan Adelhardt. He earned honorable mention all-state honors his senior year from the Topeka Capital-Journal and the Wichita Eagle.

While Kennedy racked up 28 tackles on defense his senior year, he stayed even more productive on offense. He had 652 passing yards for seven touchdowns, 388 rushing yards for two more scores and 387 receiving yards for another five touchdowns spanning his junior and senior seasons.

Kennedy also served as his team’s punter his junior and senior seasons, averaging 34.2 yards-per-punt. Aside from football, he also played basketball and was involved in powerlifting.

Kennedy made his commitment to K-State official through Twitter on Feb. 4, 2020.

While Kennedy didn’t see any game action in 2020, his all-around talent and ability to play multiple positions could prove an asset to the Wildcats in coming years.

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