Written by: TJ Inman (@TJHoosierHuddle)
We are now less than 40 days until IU’s 2016 football season kicks off in Miami! The Hoosier Huddle Countdown is rolling along as we focus on #39. The number is worn by a pair of walk-ons: linebacker Kenny Arnold and wide receiver Chris Gajcak.
-Weight: 232 pounds
-Hometown: Canton, Michigan (Orchard Lake St. Mary’s Prep)
Kenny Arnold is not the only player on the roster to wear the number 39. However, he is, surprisingly, the only player from the state of Michigan. IU’s squad is peppered with guys like the Hoosier-state, Ohio, Georgia and a growing number Florida and Texas but Arnold is the lone representative hailing from the Great Lakes State. Arnold calls Canton, Michigan (located roughly eight miles west of Detroit’s city limits, with a population of more than 90,000) home and he attended a Catholic school called Orchard Lake St. Mary’s Preparatory where he starred in both football and baseball. The school is known for having a strong athletic program and the football squad has reached nine state finals (winning five of them) since 1994. Famous alums include former NFL defensive end David Bowens and current Jacksonville Jaguars receiver Allen Robinson.
Arnold lettered three times in football and was selected for the All-Catholic and all-league teams as a senior. He won the state title in 2011 and reached the state title game in 2012. In addition to his three football letters, he lettered twice in baseball before coming to IU and walking-on to the football team during the 2014 season. During that season, he was named the scout team player of the week on two occasions (Bowling Green and Michigan State). As a redshirt freshman in 2015, Arnold appeared in seven games and made one tackle. He’s not expected to crack the linebacker rotation due to IU’s switch to a 4-2-5 and the depth already in line at the position. However, he played on special teams last season and I’d expect Arnold to feature on coverage teams once again in 2016.
-Weight: 187 pounds
-Hometown: Lisle, Illinois (Naperville North)
Position: Wide Receiver
The second player wearing the #39 was a standout multi-sport athlete in Illinois before coming to Bloomington and moving to wide receiver: redshirt freshman Chris Gajcak. Gajcak attended Naperville North High School, located in a western suburb of Chicago. Notable alums include MLB brothers Scott and Jerry Hairston Jr., NFL running back Chris Brown and Breaking Bad/Better Call Saul star Bob Odenkirk. Gajcak played football, basketball and track and field and was named as a unanimous first team all-conference running back. Not only did he excel on the playing field (or on the track), he earned the JKB Leadership Award and was named the school’s Senior Man of the Year. The JKB Leadership Award is given by the J. Kyle Braid Leadership Foundation to students around the country who exhibit excellence in leadership and community service.
Gajcak came to IU as a walk-on and joined the program during the 2015 season. He was transitioned to wide receiver and was named the scout team player of the week on two occasions (Rutgers and Maryland). The Hoosiers are loaded with talented veterans at wide receiver so it would be a surprise to see Gajcak crack the rotation and earn playing time in 2016 but there will be opportunities for playing time as players like Ricky Jones and Mitchell Paige graduate after the coming season. Paige has turned himself from walk-on to former star so Gajcak has an example within his position group of what can happen with continued hard work.
Share your thoughts on the players featured on today’s part of the countdown in our comments section (or on the message boards) and be sure to come back to Hoosier Huddle each day as the 2016 season inches ever closer!