Liberty senior Antonio Kinard had a relatively easy assignment during the North-South All Star football game April 23 in Columbus.
The 6-foot-4, 210-pound linebacker's job was to blitz the edge. But late in the game, with his team trailing by 10, Kinard, whose nickname is TK, decided to deviate from the plan.
''At first I ran in there (to blitz) and then, I don't know, I just dropped back into coverage because I thought it was going to be a screen, and he (the quarterback) just threw it right to me,'' said Kinard, the only Trumbull County player who participated in the game. ''It was just wide open and I took it to the house.''
The 45-yard interception return for a touchdown pulled the North within three at 23-20, but that's how the game ended. To his surprise, the contest was highly competitive and it took on a different feel than he anticipated.
''Dudes were taken it way too seriously,'' he said. ''It almost turned into a rivalry game out there instead of an All-Star game.''
Kinard said the experience was a lot of fun and it helped the University of Michigan recruit realize the type of talent he's going to be playing with and against in the coming years. He'll join fellow Liberty graduates Fitzgerald Toussaint, a running back, and defensive back Isaiah Bell in Ann Arbor.
''I never played with skill level that high before, so that kind of gave me an idea as to what it was like,'' he said. ''At the same time, I was there to have fun as well.''
His performance on Friday displayed the vast skill set of Kinard, a University of Michigan recruit. He was a two-way player for the Leopards as a linebacker and running back/tight end on offense. He has the size and speed to rush off the edge but also possesses the ability to drop back in coverage. His numbers weren't overly impressive during his senior campaign, but he did grab three interceptions. He recorded 86 tackles, six sacks and 18 tackles as a junior.
Liberty missed out on the postseason this year, so Kinard hadn't put the pads on since October. He was grateful to get a chance to get back on the field.
''It felt pretty doggone good,'' he said. ''I'm a little sore but that's about it.
''We had practice in Massillon. They had us hitting from Massillon all the way to Columbus. They tried to get us ready physically because they were like, 'Most of you haven't played since October or November, so we're going to get you ready.' ''
Other area players who joined Kinard in the game were Zach Larson and Eric Franklin of Cardinal Mooney, lineman J.T. Moore and receiver Chase Hammond of Boardman, Poland's Luke Wollet and Salem's Ben Eisel.