Kendrick Bourne went from ‘an almost street life’ to the NFL

New England Patriots wide receiver Kendrick Bourne was close to never having a college career let alone making it in the NFL.

Kendrick Bourne was like many kids. He did not know what he wanted to do with his life and was prone to taking the easy way out growing up in Portland, Oregon. Getting along with his dad, who was not thrilled with his son’s decisions, was a problem as well.

“It’s one of the things I regret about my life, but everything does happen for a reason but I just regret that I didn’t understand what he was trying to do for me,” Bourne said.

Most times when you hear the story of a professional athlete or Olympic star it starts with I knew exactly what I wanted when I was eight years old and I never stopped working for it. Bourne had a more meandering path.

“I was really indecisive about my decisions,” Bourne said. “I did not know if I was committed to football, I didn’t know if I just wanted to be in the streets. At that age, I didn’t know what I wanted.”

Patriots’ Kendrick Bourne benefitted from a disciplined upbringing to reach NFL

Bourne’s support at home from his dad and brothers was strong, but once he was at school it was a different story. Bourne’s friends were not as committed to athletics and or their studies and wanted Bourne to join in on the fun.

“Those are the toughest times when you got your best friends here telling you to come hang out and you’ve got practice,” Bourne said. “I thought I wanted to live the street life be back home and not have nothing going for myself. At that time it felt good. Doing the wrong things felt good, doing the right thing was hard.”

Bourne was able to shift in the right direction with the help of one of his coaches at Benson High School, defensive coordinator Don Johnson. When Johnson was offered the head coaching job at less than powerhouse Milwaukie High School, Bourne went with his coach for his senior year.

“My coach was really the one to keep me disciplined. He was just always on me about going to class, getting my work done, being on time to practice everything like that,” Bourne said. “Once he told me to transfer with him to a  new school, new environment, new everything so I would have a better chance to be successful.”

Bourne was able to follow his coach’s guidance and earn a scholarship to Eastern Washington University where he shined with  211 receptions for 3,130 yards staring alongside Cooper Kupp.

The NFL though was not impressed enough with his college numbers after a 4.68 40-yard dash time at the combine. Bourne went undrafted, but he kept his spirit strong and battled his way onto San Francisco’s roster. He eventually became a key contributor, especially on third downs with 12 third-down catches that resulted in a first down on 15 targets in 2020.

Bourne earned a three-year deal with New England that could be worth up to $22.5 million if he is healthy and productive. There should be opportunities — the Patriots’ leading receiver last year was Jakobi Meyers with 729 yards. Bourne is not stressing the numbers wherever they shake out.

“I really just want to win, can’t say what I want stat-wise,” Bourne said. “I came to this organization to win, that’s what this organization is about. If I get the ball 100 times this year and I catch 60 or 70 and we win I’m happy. But if I don’t and we win I’m happy. That was one of my biggest decisions coming here, I know they know how to win.”

That sounds like a grounded, knows exactly what he wants in life young professional. The help of a high school coach and a strict dad can go a long way. Dad’s rules were not fun back in the day.

“He used to push me really hard,” Bourne said. “No being out after the street lights were on, no phone because I was doing the wrong things. It was a hard relationship and it was all on me.  I was making the relationship bad doing the wrong things and he just wanted the best for me. I couldn’t see it as a young kid just didn’t know what he was trying to do for me and now as an adult, I know exactly what he was doing.”

Bourne’s dad wanted more for his son than he wanted for himself. Instead of trying to be his son’s friend, he was a parent. Bourne is forever grateful and is doing his best to give back like his dad and high school coach did for him.

“It’s just awesome to have a father in my life,” Bourne said.

Kendrick Bourne is working with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Eastern Massachusetts to support year-round youth mentoring programs. He will serve as an honorary Board Member for the nonprofit and engage mentoring matches, referred to as Bigs and Littles, throughout the year.

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