Miami All-American Kam Kinchens speaks to media for first time since head/neck injury

University of Miami star safety Kamren Kinchens, the first Hurricane to have an All-American banner hung in a campus athletic facility during his playing career, spoke to the media Tuesday for the first time since being transported to the Ryder Trauma Center with a head/neck injury after a hard hit during the Texas A&M game.

Kinchens, a junior, will play for the first time in four weeks Saturday night when No. 17 Miami (4-0) faces Georgia Tech (2-3) at Hard Rock Stadium.

“Everybody seen it. Just got a little shaken up,’’ Kinchens said of the tackle. “Was just down on the ground. I remember everything that happened. Kind of just tried to make a routine play and just got I guess a little whiplash to the head. That was pretty much about it. I was kind of nervous on the field and stuff like that, but seeing all the fans rooting for me and my teammates showing me love, everything was good.”

When asked during the Zoom conference if he was diagnosed with whiplash, Kinchens said, “No. They didn’t diagnose me with that.’’

Kinchens did not elaborate and UM does not disclose personal medical information.

Miami Hurricanes safety Kamren Kinchens is taken off the field on a cart after an injury in a play against Texas A&M during the fourth quarter of an NCAA non conference game at Hard Rock Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 9, 2023 in Miami Gardens, Florida.
Miami Hurricanes safety Kamren Kinchens is taken off the field on a cart after an injury in a play against Texas A&M during the fourth quarter of an NCAA non conference game at Hard Rock Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 9, 2023 in Miami Gardens, Florida.

Kinchens said his emotion was “excitement’’ when first discovering he would be able to play Saturday.

“If they would [have let me],’’ Kinchens said, “I’d have been out there for the Bethune-Cookman game [five days after Texas A&M]. I don’t like missing games. That was my first game I missed since I was little, honestly. I didn’t miss [any] games in high school.

“It was kind of a rough patch missing those games because I pride myself on making sure I’m playing through whatever. But there’s a lot of excitement to be back out there with my family.”

The hit

Kinchens, who had not missed a game since he began his career at UM in 2021, was placed on a board and carried off on a stretcher after his hard-hitting tackle with 1:58 left in the Sept. 9 game. After initially flexing the fingers of one hand, he remained on the ground motionless for several minutes while members of both teams stood solemnly nearby. He was released from Jackson Memorial Hospital the next morning.

Asked to describe the support of the overall community and from those at his former high school Miami Northwestern, Kinchens said, “The support has always been there before the injury came, so it was nothing different.”

After missing the Bethune-Cookman game Sept. 14, he traveled to Philadelphia to watch the Sept. 23 Temple game from the sidelines. It was the last game UM played before its open week leading to Georgia Tech.

Did he gain perspective?

“Yeah, it was kind of like an eye-opener. You kind of sometimes take stuff for granted. I don’t take the game for granted, but Coach [defensive coordinator Lance] Guidry is always saying, ‘This can always be your last game so go out there and give it your all.’

“It kind of put it in perspective after watching the guys. It was great just being on the sideline. I’d rather be out there playing, but seeing my guys ball out regardless of me being out there — it was showing guys step up.”

Jaden Harris shines

Kinchens said his replacement for the games, defensive back Jaden Harris, “stepped up tremendously.”

“I didn’t see a drop-off between me and him out there.”

Harris, a redshirt freshman, had four tackles the past two games and five including Texas A&M.

Kinchens’ fellow safety and close friend James Williams also spoke Tuesday, saying it was “great to have Kam back, to see him back on Greentree Field, running around, making plays, being excited how he used to be. But I want to give a shoutout to Jaden Harris — what an incredible job he did backing Kam up.”

Kinchens said his rehab process was “just taking it day by day.”

“At first it wasn’t nothing too much. Just kind of building it up and making sure that -- you can’t replicate the football game, but they did their best job, too.”

He said he and some teammates spent last Saturday, since they didn’t have a game, walking through Overtown delivering food to the needy.

“People [are] hungry every day,’’ Kinchens said. “We were free. We had that Saturday off. There were games going on and we all wanted to watch. But we just felt like it was important to give back with a little time. Because all it takes is an hour to do that, and it ain’t hurting us and it’s only helping them.”

Kinchens lit up when asked his thoughts about Miami saving its Adidas Miami Nights all-black alternative uniforms for Georgia Tech, so he could be there to wear it in action.

“I would have been too mad if they wore it before I came back. It’s an alternate uniform, you know. You only get one time to wear it a year. So I wanted to be a part of it.”

Kinchens led UM last season with 59 tackles, six interceptions, a fumble recovery and forced fumble. Before he was injured, KIinchens had seven tackles, an interception and fumble recovery in the Texas A&M game.

Receiver Xavier Restrepo on Tuesday said the Hurricanes were “all thankful that Kam is OK and he’s healthy.’’

“He brings a lot of energy to the team,’’ Restrepo said. “And we’re just very glad that he’s going to be taking the field with us this week.’’