James Kenner ran for 1,289 yards and 14 touchdowns as a junior.

He might have been more impressive as a sophomore, when he ran for zero yards and zero touchdowns.

"His sophomore year, he practiced the whole year and he couldn't play," Paul VI coach John Doherty said.

"He toughed it out mentally and physically. He was a great teammate.

"That told me all I needed to know about James."

A 6-foot-1, 215-pound running back and linebacker, Kenner burst onto the scene last season as Paul VI went 9-1, won its third consecutive Burlco/Olympic Patriot Division title, and reached the Non-Public 4 playoffs.

But in some ways, Kenner still is racing to make up for time lost when he transferred to Paul VI from Pennsauken and was required by NJSIAA rules to sit out his entire sophomore season.

"It definitely made me hungrier," Kenner said.

"I'm not over it yet. I still feel like I'm trying to make up for all that time I had to sit out.

"But I see it as a positive, too. It made me work harder, made me appreciate how much I love to play."

Kenner is a key player for the Eagles because of his versatility. He is such an outstanding linebacker that Temple has expressed recruiting interest in him at that position.

Kenner also is a multitalented running back. He's a hard inside runner, but he's also shifty with good enough hands to flourish when the Eagles go to a spread formation to take advantage of the skills of quarterback Khaalig Burroughs and a bevy of talented receivers.

"He's not a burner, but he's got surprising quickness for a big runner," Doherty said. "He can really change direction, and he's a good receiver out of the backfield."

Kenner also has drawn recruiting interest from Boston College, where the coaches project him as a running back. He also is involved with James Madison, Syracuse, Rutgers, and West Virginia, among other programs.

Paul VI senior wide receiver Chris Hutton, who has drawn recruiting interest from schools such as Temple and Rutgers, said Kenner's attitude is the key to his success.

"James is such a hard worker," Hutton said. "He never lets up. He's got such a great work ethic."

Kenner put together some big games for Paul VI last season. He scored four touchdowns against Pemberton. He ran for 113 yards and a touchdown against Triton. He ran for 147 yards and a touchdown against Northern Burlington.

He scored Paul VI's only touchdown in a playoff loss to North Jersey power St. Peter's Prep. He came back on Thanksgiving and scored two touchdowns in a victory over rival Camden Catholic.

"I can't say enough about James," said Doherty, whose team will open the season Friday night at Moorestown. "He's always making plays for us, and he's a team leader on offense and defense."

Kenner has a full season under his belt. He is poised for a big senior year.

But he doesn't forget his sophomore season, when not playing football made him appreciate how much he loves the game.

"That hurt my heart," Kenner said. "That's why I'm always pushing myself. I don't love it. I live it."