KENNEWICK — Dennis Kennedy is too quiet to say it.
But his actions channel what former NFL receiver Keyshawn Johnson used to say: "Just give me the damn ball."
Kennedy racked up 149 total yards last week for the Fever in its 70-44 defeat of visiting Everett in the teams' Indoor Football League season opener.
Fans noticed a harder-charging Kennedy, who runs accurate pass routes, has great hands and who still enjoys laying a lick on an opposing player.
"The difference this year is Dennis came into camp in good shape," said Fever coach Adam Shackleford, whose team plays at the Nebraska Danger at 4:05 p.m. today. "Last year, he played himself into shape."
Last year, said Fever quarterback Houston Lillard, Kennedy wasn't always here mentally.
"I think the biggest difference is he's tuned in, he's here," said Lillard. "Last year he wasn't where he wanted to be."
Kennedy's story is like many other football players' sagas.
He always has loved football.
"It's a competition," Kennedy said. "I love the experience you get meeting a lot of different guys from around the country, hearing their stories. It gives you a lot of perspective."
After a college career at Akron, Kennedy got himself into the best shape of his life while preparing for the 2009 NFL draft.
But he was never drafted. He got a short stint with the Edmonton Eskimos of the Canadian Football League in 2010, and then another with the CFL's B.C. Lions after the Fever season ended last summer.
"I went up to Canada for a couple weeks last summer, and I made up my mind to get in the best shape possible," Kennedy said. "Coming into camp, I feel lot more explosive since last year."
Kennedy said he decided to move back to the Tri-Cities when teammate Lionell Singleton called him in late summer and asked him to help with Singleton's after-school program to help kids.
He also started working out with Fever receiver Steven Whitehead -- who is a personal trainer -- and Lillard.
"And that kind of helped push me more," Kennedy said.
Kennedy had struggled some times last season, when he was sidelined with injuries. And then when he finally got back, he was ejected early in his first game.
"I got a little rocky there," he said. "It took patience from my part, just to keep fighting."
Shackleford thinks Kennedy had something to prove to his coach.
"Dennis is very quiet and a very likable guy," Shackleford said. "At times last year, we'd take him off the field and put Jackie Chambers in as a receiver. I think Dennis wanted to show me that he didn't need to come off the field."
Last Saturday, Kennedy rarely left the field. He lined up in the backfield, lined up wide as a receiver. He returned kickoffs, and was on the kickoff team.
"I've loved being on the kickoff team since college," Kennedy said. "That was one of the main things in college that they preached to you if you wanted to be a player in the NFL. Unless you're a first-round pick, the only way you're gonna make an NFL team is through special teams like kickoffs."
Ask him what he likes to do best, though, and it's hit.
"I like laying somebody out on a block," he said.
Ha! said Lillard.
"He's a good blocker, but I think he likes going out for pass routes," Lillard said. "He can run, catch and block. All the best running backs are multi-dimensional. They never come out of the game."
That's become Kennedy.
Lillard works hand-in-hand with Kennedy during the game. They're the last two to talk to each other before the play starts.
"Before we break the huddle, I kind of let him know the situation I want him in," said Lillard. "Like 'It's third and long, stay in and block.' Or he'll be ready for me to dump a pass off to him. Or he'll say ' Don't worry about the linebacker. I'll take care of him."'
Keeping Kennedy involved in the offense has become a main key to the team's success this season.
"We ran the ball 25 times last week," said Shackleford. "Not all of those were for Dennis. But a lot of them were. He is our pressure release for Houston."
That's music to Kennedy's ears.
"I'm thrilled about that," said Kennedy. "I think last season I got the ball 10 times once."
Stats aside, that's not the most important thing to him.
"First, I want us to get back to the championship game," Kennedy said. "That bittersweet taste of getting there and not winning is still there. I have never been a big player who toots his horn. For me, getting back to the championship and just winning would be great."
To do that, the Fever needs to get Kennedy "the damn ball."