By EJ Holland
If you’re from Texas or follow the state’s high school scene then the name G.J. Kinne should ring a bell.
As a senior at Gilmer back in 2006, Kinne was considered the most prolific high school quarterback in the state, if not the nation, after passing for 3,327 yards and 47 touchdowns with just one interception. He was named High School All-America and finished his career ranked in Texas high school history in career passing yards (11,695).
When signing day rolled around, it was no surprise that the 3A Offensive Player of the Year inked with Texas. But after red-shirting his first year, Kinne knew it wasn’t a match made in heaven and opted to cross the state line by transferring to Tulsa.
The rest, is well, history. On Friday, Kinne will have a chance to show the Texas faithful what they missed out on when he returns to his home-state to participate in the Armed Forces Bowl as his Tulsa squad will take on BYU in a game that should be emotional to say the least.
“It’s awesome to be able to come back and play in a stadium in my home state that’s not too far from my hometown. It’s really cool. Anytime you get to play in a big time bowl game like this one against a quality team, it’s going to be fun,” Kinne said. “The last time I actually played here was at SMU two years ago, and we lost 21-18. It wasn’t too great of a homecoming the last tim, so hopefully this year, friends and family will be able to come and I’ll be able to go out with a win.”
What Kinne has been able to do at Tulsa is nothing short of spectacular. The senior field general has led the Golden Hurricane to three straight bowl appearances and is now ranked third on the school’s all-time career passing yards list with 9,258. What is even more amazing is Kinne swiftly moved up the ranks without record setting wide out Damaris Johnson at his disposal for the entire 2011 season.
“I think I’ve definitely had a lot of ups and downs, but I’ve had a great time here at Tulsa. I’ve met some really cool people and made some really good friends here so I wouldn’t change anything,” Kinne said. “This season, we definitely had some turmoil and adversity after losing some key receivers, but luckily we’ve been able to run the ball, and I feel we have the best offensive line in the conference. Hopefully, we can win one more game.”
On the other side of the ball, Kinne’s counterpart All-Conference USA LB Curnelius Arnick is undoubtedly Tulsa’s fearless leader and is in charge of commanding a defensive unit that has the daunting task of stopping a BYU offense averaging over 30 points per game.
“We just need to do what we do out there," Arnick explained at a Thursday news conference. "The game plan is no different,” Arnick said. “We all know who BYU is – big guys, real big guys … huge guys! They’re physical and they have been able to make plays just like we do. We just need to do what we do.”
During his four-year tenure at Tulsa, Arnick has been known to lay the wood and demand perfection from his teammates. The senior linebacker ranks sixth in the nation with 142 tackles this season and earned first team All-Conference USA honors.
But before becoming a stalwart and household name for Tulsa, Arnick was an under-recruited prospect from Dallas Carter High School. Like Kinne, Arnick will be returning home with a chip on his shoulder and said he is looking forward to putting on a show.
“It feels good to be back to home. It’s what I’ve been waiting for and it’s finally here. It’s like a Christmas gift and a birthday gift put together. That’s all I asked for and I got it,” Arnick said. “This is a perfect ending to my college career; I can’t ask for anything more. My college career started out great and it’s going to end great. I’m just going to go out tomorrow and do the best that I can and just try to put on (a good show) for my friends, my family and, most of all, for Tulsa.”
While Arnick and Kinne both realize the magnitude of playing a bowl game in their home state against a storied BYU program, the dynamic duo also recognize that this game is not just about them but rather who this bowl game intended to venerate.
“I think honoring the Armed Forces is the biggest thing about this game. Being able to honor those guys that go out there and serve our country is tremendous,” Kinne said. “It’s something that makes me want to go out there and play a great game for those guys.”