The Kafentzis pedigree: Austin comes from a talented football family
Former prep superstar Austin Kafentzis comes from a family that has earned 47 Division-1 football letters, starting with his grandfather at Montana
Austin Kafentzis not only came to the college game with a long list of records and accolades; he also had bloodlines. The Kafentzis family — Austin’s father, uncles and cousins — has earned a total of 47 Div. 1 football letters.
When LaVell Edwards was the head coach at BYU, he flew to Washington to make a home visit to Sean Kafentzis, Austin’s uncle. As the coach explained it, “I’m tired of coaching against the Kafentzis brothers.”
By then he had already coached against four of them. Sean would make five.
Edwards was already familiar with the family. During his playing days at Utah State, Edwards played against the Kafentzis brothers’ father, Andrea Kafentzis, a wide receiver at Montana. Years later, Andy’s sons showed up on the gridiron — Mark, twins Kurt and Kent, Kyle and Sean played defensive back for the University of Hawaii.
In 1984, Kurt, Kent and Kyle all started at defensive back, making up three-fourths of the team’s secondary. In a game against Fresno State that season, Kent had two interceptions, Kurt had one and Kyle had what would’ve been an interception if he hadn’t stepped out of bounds (he did tip one of the interceptions to Kent). Kyle, who missed a number of games with various injuries, is still No. 5 on Hawaii’s all-time interception list, with 11 in just 17 games. Kent is No. 8 on the list with 10. Kurt had six.
“I don’t remember all the interceptions, but I do remember the ones I dropped,” says Kyle, referring to his 17 pass deflections, which he considers drops.
Four of the five Kafentzis brothers were signed by NFL teams. Mark was drafted by the Browns in the eighth round of the 1982 draft and played four years in the league, mostly for the Colts. Kurt played four seasons for the Redskins and Oilers. Kent was drafted by the Cardinals in the ninth round and was cut one game into the season to make room for a veteran free-agent signing. Kyle signed a free-agent deal with the Bears in 1986 but tore his ACL in camp and spent the season on injured reserve. A year later he could not pass the physical because of the injury and that was the end of his career.
The Kafentzis brothers moved on from the game and gave way to the next generation. Their sons took up football and many of them advanced to the college game — Landon Kafentzis, Tyson Kafentzis and Mikhail Powell played for Hawaii, Ryan DePalo played for Oregon, Roman Kafentzis plays for Boise State, Kurt Elliott played for BYU and Austin Kafentzis plays for BYU. All of them are defensive players.
When Edwards recruited Elliot he told him, “Maybe I’ll get one of you guys away from Hawaii.” This time he succeeded.
It’s possible the family will be able to add more Division I letters to its collection of 47. One of the cousins — Giovanni Kafentzis, Mark’s son — won MVP honors at the 2018 BYU skills camp for his age group as a seventh-grader in 2018.
“I’d be curious if there is any other family that has won that many letters,” says Kyle, who was one of 13 children. “The only other family that might be close is the Kaufusis.”
Says Austin, “There are 40 cousins and most of them are male, and all of them played football. We look at our dads. They all played. It’s just a huge sports family in general. Ever since I was a little kid, football was it.”