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'A new Max': Maple Grove student-athlete shows determination on and off field

After depression led to a major weight gain, Max Kennedy took drastic action eight months ago. And now, he's wearing the results pretty well.

MAPLE GROVE, Minn. — The high school football season in Minnesota kicks off Thursday night, which marks a new beginning for teams, players, coaches and fans.

And when Max Kennedy, No. 79, takes the field for Maple Grove, some may not recognize him at all.

This is not a football story — so much as it is a life story.

The before and the after pictures say it all. Kennedy is a new man.

“When you look in the mirror right now, what do you see?” asked KARE 11's Randy Shaver.

“Really? I'm, like, really skinny. Like, my mom just showed me a picture yesterday, and it's like, holy cow. I'm really skinny,” said Kennedy.

“Max Kennedy last year weighed close to 360 pounds, but never missed a day of practice, never missed a workout," said Matt Lombardi, Maple Grove's head football coach. "If we're doing 40-yard dashes, you might have to time him on the sundial, but he would get there and he never, ever stopped running."

That work ethic and determination on the football field may also explain Max's work off the field to lose weight — a staggering amount of weight.

“So, when you were at your heaviest, what were you?” asked Randy.

“335,” said Max.

“How did you feel at 335?” asked Randy.

“I felt like I was wearing a weighted vest on me at all times. It's very hard to move; very hard to breathe sometimes. I just felt very unhealthy,” said Max.

So, on New Year's Day, Max made a resolution — a commitment — to change.

He joined Weight Watchers and worked out religiously. By April, the transformation was shocking.

“When I saw him this spring, he's just a changed guy,” says Sam Peters, Maple Grove tight end.

“It really does motivate me. I thought it was really cool to be able to do that — just work hard all time and you can do anything,” said Jacob Kilzer, Maple Grove quarterback.

“It's pretty cool to watch what this kid has done here. He's a testament — even when your life is really tough, he never gave up one second. Now he's a new Max,” said Lombardi.

A new Max. Literally.

The senior lost almost 130 pounds in eight months. His new weight? 209. 

And yet...

“I still view myself as, like, a little bit bigger, but I got to get over that somehow,” said Max. “I mean, I've always been big my entire life, so you just kind of get that stuck in your head,” says Kennedy.

What's also stuck in his head, is his dad, Art. Art died in 2018 of a heart attack at the age of 38. He weighed over 400 pounds.

“After he died, I went as usual, as grief, I had a lot of depression. I still do, but it gets better every day,” said Max.

Max says depression led to his massive weight gain, but it also forced him to take a long look at his life — which is why he took drastic action eight months ago.

And now, he's wearing the results pretty well.

“I started going through my clothes and I was going to donate to the Goodwill. I was kind of shocked, I started getting a little emotional, to be honest. It's like, holy cow. I was big. I never want to go back to that,” said Max.

Max was wearing XXXL shirts, and almost XXXL pants. Now, he's wearing a large.

Despite dropping the nearly 130 pounds, Max is still an offensive lineman for Maple Grove.

He also credits his mom, Nicole, for being his biggest supporter in losing the weight and changing his life. He said this wouldn't have happened without her.

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