It’s an honor and pleasure to bring you this very special interview. Dayna Kinnaird is, by all accounts, one of the hardest workers you will ever meet. And If I do say so myself, a man of very high character.
Dayna came to UofL from Jeffersonville High School where he played both offensive right tackle and defensive end. He was a walk-on at UofL and was redshirted in 2017. In 2018 he didn’t enter a single game. But in 2019, he earned a scholarship and was named a starter just prior to the opening game against Notre Dame. Just think about that for a minute – He went from walk-on, who didn’t play in one game, to a scholarship player that was first on the depth chart in just one year. You don’t make that jump by luck. It’s 100% hard work.
One thing I didn’t ask Dayna about in this interview was his name change. In December of 2017 at the Cards bowl game in Florida, Dayna surprised his dad with an official name change. I didn’t ask about this because no matter how we look at it, Gary is Dayna’s dad. End of story.
But if you’re interested, the link below is the story WLKY did on the moment Gary was notified that Dayna changed his last name to Kinnaird.
Dayna Kinnaird Interview
CSZ – I want to start by thanking you for your hard work and dedication to the university. I know it all hasn’t been easy and you could have transferred at anytime. I appreciate you taking the time to talk to me and let the fans know a little more about you and your time here.
DK – First off I just want to thank you personally Jeff, for allowing me this opportunity to tell more of my story and also for being a fan and coming to games to support the team. I just want to say thank you from me and all my teammates to you and to the rest of the media members who follow us players and always show us the upmost love.
CSZ – Thank you. I appreciate that. I’ll always be there for all of you.
CSZ – You have had some great times and some not so great times during your career here. But on the field you made some really great memories. What would you say is your favorite on the field moment?
DK – Man, that’s tough to pick from over the last 5 years. But I would have to say the 2019 Music City Bowl win, the excitement and the energy from both the team and the fans that we had there was unlike anything I’ve ever witnessed in football. The locker room after the game was truly special. Other than that I would have to include 2019 season opener against top 10 Notre Dame. 50,000+ fans, only game on that day, and my first college game and start. I get chills just thinking about it.
CSZ – Getting 2 degrees in 5 years is quite an accomplishment. Congrats on that achievement. How grueling was it to balance both school and football at the highest level?
DK – Honestly, for me personally balancing school and football was never a huge issue for me and that started with my habits I developed in high school. But I will say the most difficult years were my first and my last year. Getting used to college life is a huge change from living at home and having the same 7 classes Monday through Friday. This last year has been tough because for me it’s been like getting close to the finish line in a marathon. It’s been such a long journey and you just want to finish it but you got to finish it strong and in the right ways. So I think after getting my masters this semester, I can confidently say I finished the race the best way I could. I certainly left it all on the field and in the classroom.
CSZ – Your parents truly are special people. I think I saw them at every single game. What does is it to mean to you to have them there for every single moment of your journey?
DK – My parents really are special, them being at everything was always something that I was appreciative of. I know a lot of guys don’t have that kind of relationship with their parents or they just don’t have a family like I have. So it has meant a whole lot to me to be able to say that Mom and Dad were there every step of the way.
CSZ – When you walked on at Louisville could you have ever imagined that you would eventually get a scholarship and become a starter?
DK – You know, thinking back, when I first got to Louisville, I was hitting on all cylinders. I was in the best shape of my life, I spent so many hours training at Chris Vaughn’s gym, Aspirations, getting my body physically ready for my chance to play D1 power 5 football. Moved on campus two days after taking last high school final and went through summer conditioning with the team. Then on the 3rd day of my first fall camp, I tore my first ACL. After that It was difficult to see myself achieving the goals I set for myself ( earn a scholarship and get playing time ). But through that rehab process I really learned a lot about myself and took that time to learn more about college football. Ultimately I think that period in my career really helped me develop an even stronger work ethic that eventually would bring me to starting 3 games, playing in 31, and earning a scholarship.
CSZ – My family was hit with Covid so I wasn’t able to attend the last home game and get photos of all the seniors and their families. I’m really sorry I missed that for you and your family. That really bothered me and I felt like I let you guys down. You had to miss the bowl game due to Covid. How hard was it for you to have to miss your last game due to Covid?
DK – Man, I will tell you this, I’ve been through a lot of hard times in my career but I don’t think anything amounts to how difficult my time was down in Dallas. Not a lot of people outside the program knew that I had torn my other ACL at the end of my last Spring camp in March. I had fought so hard to rehab and make it back for as much of my final season as I could. And I made it back thanks to Matt Summers and our amazing training staff. But I thought surely the toughest battle of this year was over. I was wrong.
Once I tested positive, I knew it was over, that I would never get to put a helmet and shoulder pads on ever again. It was really hard to think that I’d never be on the field with my teammates again. Or that my parents, who’d arrived at the hotel in Dallas when we did on Christmas Eve, wouldn’t get to watch me play football again. It was extremely difficult to understand why someone like me had to have my career end in that fashion. But I know everything happens for a reason and God gives his strongest warriors the hardest obstacles.
CSZ – You get one last meal in Louisville – you can go anywhere you want for free and you can take three teammates with you. Where are you going and who you rolling with?
DK – I would have to say Sapporos and I’m taking TP, Yaya, and Dorian Etheridge. Those guys are the dudes I became closest with throughout the years.
CSZ – How important was Mark Ivey in your development as a player and as a man?
DK – Coach Ivey was a huge impact in both my development as a player and a man. Coach Ivey was the main coach who saw potential in me. When he got here, I was a 5th string defensive end who had never played a snap in a college game. Through that spring, I went from 5th to 3rd to 2nd to 1st string. That was all because I was really soaking in a lot of what Coach Ivey was teaching. As a man, the number one lesson I have learned from Coach Ivey was no matter what you do in life, you got to love it. Coach Ivey was always the same man everyday at practices, at games, at meetings, he was the same. Bringing tons of energy and excitement even in the simplest of things like a walk-thru. I think if a lot of other people in this world could channel Coach Ivey’s excitement for football, the world would be a happier place.
CSZ – Do you have a favorite uniform combo?
DK – Man… another tough question, I don’t honestly have a number one favorite, I’ll have to give you a top 3. First the all white uniform from this past year, the silver wings on the jersey… that’s all I got to say! Next would probably have to be the 2019 Music City Bowl Uniform, matte black helmet, red jersey, and black pants and cleats. Finally, the all red from this past year. I just love the new jerseys with the Cardinal wings.
CSZ – You think you and your parents will be season ticket holders next year? Might be cool to watch a game with your parents.
DK – It’s funny you say that because my freshman year I was actually in the stands all season sitting next to my parents watching Lamar’s final year. Not many people know that back then some players had to sit in the stands. But yeah, I plan on going to every game next year and I would imagine that my parents would be there right next to me like always.
CSZ – What are your plans for the future?
DK – Right now I’m doing an internship with Joey Wagner, who is an awesome mentor and very well known in the Louisville Community. So I’m hoping that I could possibly land a job with his company. But even if that doesn’t work out, Joey has a ton of connections locally and even across the country if I ever want to pursue an opportunity and chance to live in a different area, since I’ve been here my whole life. I’ve also been thinking about coaching the defensive line at my high school. So not entirely sure what my future will look like, but I’d like to think coming out with two degrees and a ton of CFB experience, is not a bad place to start off at.
CSZ – Who should fans look for on the D line to have a big season this upcoming year?
DK – I would have to say probably the obvious but that’s Yaya Diaby and Ashton Gillotte. Both of those guys not only are two of the most gifted guys I’ve been around, but they also work very hard on their craft. So I’m really expecting a big year out of those two in the 2022 season.
CSZ – As a guy who stayed through the good and bad times, how do you feel about the transfer portal? Are you a fan of it as it is currently set up or do you think there needs to be a few changes to the rules?
DK – You know I think the transfer portal is in a good place and it’s exactly what it should be. I think players should have to ability to explore other options if they get to a place in their career where they think a change of scenery or opportunity could be beneficial for them. I will say this though, some guys, and I’m not talking about just guys I’ve played with at Louisville, but around the country, can be too quick to go to the portal. I stuck it out through my years here and I think it makes the journey more worth it when you go through obstacles like coaching changes.
CSZ – Besides Cardinal Stadium, what was your favorite stadium to play in during your college career?
DK – Besides Cardinal Stadium, I would have to say my favorite place to play at was Notre Dame. Being from Indiana, it was really cool to play at such a historic place and the most successful football program’s stadium in my home state. Being the only Indiana guy on the team, it was special to me. But just a couple other standouts through my career, Miami ( the stadium literally felt like a marina ), Tennessee Titans stadium in Nashville, and Heinz Field up in Pittsburgh ( even though it was empty due to Covid ).
CSZ – You have the floor to send one last message to all of Card Nation and your local fans that support you no matter what. Go…
DK – One last message to CardNation, thank you guys for being best fans, truly. We all know UofL has seen some amazing ups and some really bad downs in this past 5 years. But I will say there is no other fanbase like you all. The truly dedicated fans, like my man Gary Redbird, who are there for every game, every quarter, make it all worth it. The fans that show up at Card March, y’all made a kid from Jeffersonville’s dream come true. CardNation is a special fanbase and I know that because before I ever put on the Cardinal bird helmet, I was right there in the stands, cheering on the Cards back in the Big East days. Now it’s my time to join the fans once again. #L1C4