Kennedy McDowell, the Colorado State defensive end who is publicly out as gay, was carted off the field during the Rams’ thrilling victory over the Boise State Broncos on Saturday.
It was the result of a helmet-to-helmet blindside block by Boise State’s Chase Martin that demonstrates why this kind of hit has been made illegal across football.
The officials correctly called it an illegal blindside block, though Martin probably should have been disqualified for “targeting” for the rest of the game and the first half of the Broncos’ next game.
Martin seems to clearly take aim and launch at McDowell’s head, which would be a targeting violation. “Targeting” is a foul that draws an automatic disqualification in NCAA football. It should not have mattered that his shoulder was also involved. This seems to have been clear helmet-to-helmet with a launch.
See for yourself the player’s hit on McDowell’s head:
Prayers up for Colorado State DL Kennedy McDowell. He was carted off the field after this hit on a return.— Video from: @TSV__1 (@TSV__1) October 15, 2023
He gave a thumbs up while being carted off. pic.twitter.com/dHOXTo9PSa
Thankfully, McDowell has been cleared by medical staff, per this statement to Outsports from Colorado State:
“Following evaluations by the medical team overnight at Poudre Valley Hospital, Kennedy McDowell was discharged at approximately 4:30 a.m. this morning. He is in excellent spirits, and we are thankful to our partners at UCHealth and OCR for their expeditious and diligent care.”
Colorado State won the game in fourth-quarter come-from-behind fashion as the Rams scored a hail-mary touchdown on the last play of regulation:
I stayed up until 2 a.m. to watch my Alma mater beat Boise State for the first time in history … on a Hail Mary … after being down 17-0. It’s a GREAT day to be a Colorado State Ram! pic.twitter.com/FUAXD4KrVE— Matt L. Stephens (@MattStephens) October 15, 2023
The Mountain West Conference sent Outsports this statement, claiming there was no launch, and that the primary force wasn’t to McDowell’s head:
“The foul for a blindside block was the correct call. This play was reviewed in both the replay booth and at the Replay Operations Center in Dallas. For targeting, there must be an indicator such as the dropping of the head, a launch, thrust, etc. It was determined that the primary force of the blow was with the defender’s right shoulder to the left shoulder of the defender.”
After the game and in the locker room, head coach Jay Norvell awarded one of the game balls to McDowell.
“We’re going to give this to Kennedy, and we’re going to say a prayer for him,” Norvell said.
You can hear in that video a player, unprompted, saying “Yes sir.” That speaks to the love and intra-team commitment that exists across football and across sports.
For his part, McDowell was reportedly the consummate team player:
All @MayhemMcDowell asked me from his hospital bed was "Coach, did I do my job? Did I do ok?" Tears in my eyes, "You did great Kennedy." I am greatly humbled to be able to coach young men such as this. https://t.co/2QPt7UqyDj— Tommy Perry (@CO_CoachPerry) October 15, 2023
McDowell is a teammate first and foremost. That he’s gay — and that he’s gay as Taylor Swifties — is no matter to his teammates. They love and support him.
Novell launched into a speech about God and religion after giving a game ball to McDowell. It speaks to the character of men in football that a devout Christian would honor and support a gay athlete.