SDSU RB Kenan Christon: “This is the toughest team I’ve been with—The toughest group of guys.”

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With contributions from Anthony Millican and Matteo Ortiz.

Growing up, Kenan Christon figured the track oval would be where he’d shine and earn acclaim. The San Diego speedster dominated local track competitions and didn’t get into football until he entered high school.

But through an abundance of hard work and determination, the former Madison High Warhawk has turned into a beast on the gridiron with the ball in his hands and eyes on the next level. 

The Sons of Montezuma Podcast sat down with the Aztecs running back for an exclusive interview to get his thoughts on the upcoming 2023 football season and to hear about what he has learned on his path to the top of the depth chart entering fall camp. A place he could not have imagined being just a few short years ago.

“I was always fast and thought I’d be an Olympian,” Christon shared about his early athletic career. “I ran track all my life and didn’t really know much about football until my freshman and sophomore years of high school.”

“At the end of my sophomore season, I started to take football a little more seriously. I started hearing from schools and receiving offers. This gives you confidence.”

Christon entered his high school senior season in 2018 as a multiple-sport star and produced outstanding seasons in football and track. As a four-star running back recruit, he rushed for 980 yards and 11 touchdowns.

In the spring, Christon captured state titles in both the 100 and 200 meters and was named Cal-Hi Sports All-State second team after his senior year.

Kenan Christon was at the top of his game.

In fact, he accepted a football scholarship to USC where he also planned to run track.  In his time with the Trojans, the 5’10” 190-pound speedster rushed 78 times for 443 yards, compiling an excellent 5.7 yards-per-carry average any back would be proud of.

But things did not go as planned at ‘SC. Christon was suspended early in his sophomore season after a physical altercation with another student. Though no arrests were ever made, no charges ever filed and despite the two parties reconciliation, a six-week investigation by USC’s Office of Student Judicial Affairs and Community Standards found it in their power to determine that violations of the school’s student code of conduct had been broken.

The penalty for Christon—on what the LA Times USC beat writer Ryan Kartje concluded as a headlock—was roughly a 15 month long suspension from campus and University activities.

Kenan Christon with his father Kenan Christon Sr. during his time at Madison High in San Diego, CA.

Over a year suspended from the school and athletics that he had dedicated himself to—that he had came to USC for and looked primed to breakout at. That time out of football would take up most of the 2020 season and all of his 2021 season.

Though his suspension was ultimately reduced, the damage of the ruling had been done. Christon was faced with the difficult decision to switch gears and put himself in a much better position to move forward. He decided to enter into the transfer portal.

In that process he heard from schools big and small, but in the end, the chance to come home proved too much.

“It felt good for me to play in front of my family in high school,” he said. “I felt that what would give me the best chance to succeed would be to play in front of my family again.”

From the start in his second recruitment, Christon says the Aztecs coaching staff made it clear he would have to earn his spot. 

“Here, they told me I was going to have to compete for it,” he recalled. “Ultimately, that’s what I wanted to do. I didn’t want it just given to me because then I’m not working for it. If I’m not working, then I’m not going to be where I want to be.“

“People do stuff for the cameras in other places. They will act for the cameras,” Christon continued. “Here, we don’t have that. We are always working. People don’t see it, but we’re always working.”

“This is the toughest team I’ve been with. The toughest group of guys.”

That focus on hard work stands out Christon as he thinks about the differences he’s experienced as an Aztec from his days at USC. Being able to see for himself the contrast in programs is a perspective not many have been able to share.

One element of work that he’s most proud of is his evolution to become a good receiver out of the backfield and someone the quarterbacks and coaching staff can count on to deliver in the passing game.

SDSU RB Kenan Christon slotted at the top of the depth chart heading into Fall camp.

“As the running backs room as a whole, we are trying to be more versatile,” Christon said. “We can’t just be running backs only. We want to be able to be the most versatile group on the field and do it all.”

In a crowded and talented running back corps, Christon has put in the work to be listed first on the depth chart. He’ll also handle kick returner duties this season for the Aztecs.

With his sprinter speed still there, Christon envisions himself taking the kickoff and putting SDSU on the scoreboard without the need for the offense taking a snap.

In his first year on Montezuma Mesa, Christon appeared in all 13 games rushing 71 times for 261 yards and two touchdowns, a modest 3.7 per carry average. He ranked third on the team in rushing behind the departed Jordan Byrd and the returning Jaylon Armstead.

Christon added nine receptions for 207 yards and one touchdown as a pass catcher. His 23 yards per catch average ranked second in the country among running backs with a minimum of nine receptions.

Christon enters his second season for San Diego State as a preseason third-team all-Mountain West selection by Phil Steele Magazine and a fourth-team pick by Athlon Sports. The Aztecs have been picked to finish fourth in the conference in preseason polls.

The team’s fastest running back expects a bit more from himself and his teammates however.

“I’m excited for this season,” Christon said. “They say on the internet that we are underdogs, but the team is excited and I feel like we are closer than we’ve ever been. I feel like we are going to be really strong and really good this year.“

“For me it’s really just doing the best that I can,” he added. “My end goal is to go to the NFL. I know what I have to do to get there, and it’s not a number or this amount of yards or touchdowns. I’ve got to perform and show (scouts) what they want to see, so I can be at the next level.”

Christon and his Aztecs teammates will get their first chance to showcase all their hard work in the season’s first game against Ohio University on Saturday, August 26 at Snapdragon Stadium.

SDSU Running Back Kenan Christon is officially a member of our Sons of Montezuma NIL Team. Our partnership with Kenan allows for the creation of his own apparel sold exclusively in our online shop. The agreement also provides several podcast interviews available here and on our YouTube channel. Your support of Kenan and other SDSU players on our NIL team directly sends revenue towards them. We hope you enjoy this feature article taken from our interview of Kenan in episode #130.

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