Kenny Spencer admits he never envisioned his career in professional football leading to a prominent role on a reality TV show or personal friendships with rock-and-roll music legends Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley of KISS fame.
Spencer, a 2005 Glenwood Community High School graduate, is the place kicker for the LA KISS, an Arena Football League (AFL) team partially owned by the two band members from KISS and the focus of the 10-week 4th and Loud docu-series that began airing in August on Tuesday nights on AMC (9 p.m. CDT).
The behind-the-scenes drama chronicles the daily trials and tribulations of the LA KISS as the team competes in its inaugural season in the AFL, which actually ended in late July with a disappointing 3-15 record. Spencer has been one of the players featured regularly in the TV show, including an early episode when he kicks two field goals in the final minute of the game to give the KISS a 41-38 victory over San Antonio.
“It was a fun experience. The season wasn’t what we wanted it to be, but I knew signing with an expansion team it would go one of two ways – either we were going to have this really good team or have more of a building year where we go 3-15,” Spencer said during a visit back to Glenwood earlier this month. “The TV show was a fun experience. It’s reality TV, so you take it for what it is – there has to be drama and there has to be turmoil, stuff like that.”
Spencer was a major focus of some of that “drama” and “turmoil” later in the season, both on the playing field and in the TV show, after he missed three extra points in a loss to San Jose. After the game, KISS head coach Bob McMillen called out his normally-reliable kicker and in a matter of days the team was holding an open competition between Spencer and a half-dozen other candidates to determine the lone kicking spot on the roster.
Fortunately for Spencer, he prevailed in the competition and kept his spot on the team, but speculation that his fraternization with a member of the LA KISS dance team may have contributed to his subpar performance against San Jose led to a face-to-face meeting with Simmons. During the meeting, aired on the show, Simmons suggests to Spencer that the relationship might be serving as a distraction, something the rocker said he knows something about. Simmons tells Spencer those kind of distractions can cause kickers to miss field goals and extra points and singers to forget song lyrics.
“It’s a crazy business. It’s cut throat as you can see by some of the episodes,” Spencer said. “If you don’t get the job done, you could get cut just as quick as anybody else. Yes, my job was in jeopardy.
“Before the beginning of the season, I didn’t miss any kicks at all. I had one game at Iowa where I missed one PAT because I didn’t play as much. I was cold, I didn’t kick until the fourth quarter. Then, the next game, I missed the next three. It was like, ‘Oh man, what’s wrong with him?’”
Spencer’s ultimate goal is to be a kicker in the NFL. After graduating from GCHS, where he played football and soccer, Spencer kicked in college at Ellsworth Community College in Iowa Falls and later at Division II North Alabama, coached by Terry Bowden.
In 2012, he signed an AFL contract with the Spokane Shock, where he earned league kicker-of-the-year honors. He would later move on to play for the New Orleans VooDoo before signing with the KISS in the 2014 offseason.
“I’m 27 now and I think I’m closer than I’ve ever been (to the NFL). I just haven’t found that right situation,” Spencer said. “It’s not that I don’t kick well at the workout, it’s just that the NFL is just so hard to bust in. You have to have that right fit. Everything is molded into you being the right person for that team.
“I’ve been told I’m on the short list. There are 32 kickers in the NFL and there’s probably another 32 that everybody looks at. I feel like I’m in that little loop there.”
Spencer said since 4th and Loud has started airing, he’s heard from several old friends from Glenwood and college who are tuning in to the show on Tuesday nights.
“I’ve got a lot of people telling me they’re watching the show. They can’t believe someone from a small town is on a reality show like this,” he said. “Everyone is excited, too, just because they see a familiar face and say, ‘I went to high school with that guy.’”
Spencer said every player on the KISS has two contracts – one for playing football, where the average salary is about $830 per week, and one for the TV show. The contracts for the TV show vary from player-to-player according to their role. Think Factory, the company that produces the show, selected Spencer as one of the players who would be featured prominently after interviews and auditions prior to the season.
“We all came down and ran kind of a little training camp thing just to kind of make something they could send to AMC to pick up the show,” Spencer said. “We went through a bunch of meetings and interviews with the production company. Everybody went through the same kind of interview. It got cut down to about half the guys, then half of that, and then down to five.
“When it got down to five, I was one of the guys that got called back. I guess they liked my personality and the way that I spoke.”
Spencer said he never felt uncomfortable being around the cameras and film crews - at practice, in the locker room or when they would happen to follow him home to his apartment.
“Anything I did or say, I did knowing the TV was probably going to have to do what they have to do to film. I don’t regret anything because I did it to the best of my ability,” he said. “If they asked me to do something, I would ponder about it. If I thought it was something that would represent me well of the person I am, I was like. ‘OK, whatever.’”
So, after his football playing days are over, does Spencer have an interest in a career in acting or entertainment?
“If the opportunity arose, I would do it,” Spencer said. “Right now, I’m focused on the NFL, but if that doesn’t work out and it (acting) is there, I’d do it.”
Spencer admits he didn’t listen to very much KISS music before signing with his current football team, but with the group’s music being played regularly at home games, he’s taken a liking to several songs.
“I guess I never really listened to it. I never had it on my iPod or iPhone before I joined the team,” Spencer said. “After I joined the team, I expected questions like this so I started to listen to some of their songs. One of my favorites now is Calling Doctor Love. Now, I’m way more familiar with their music than I was before. It’s good music to listen to for getting pumped up for the games.”
Spencer still has family in Glenwood, including his parents Jeff and Gloria. They’ve enjoyed following Kenny’s kicking career over the years, but are now also enjoying their Tuesday nights watching 4th and Loud.
“The show is a lot of fun. I know a lot of stuff that is going on, but I don’t know how they splice it together,” Jeff Spencer said. “Not to spoil it for people that are watching it, but they do what they need to do for TV and make it more controversial. "Me and my wife love it. Even our granddaughters, who are 2 and 6, recognize the music from the show and say ‘Uncle Kenny’ when it comes on.”
Kenny Spencer said the notoriety that comes with playing for a team in
Los Angeles with the KISS connection is definitely something he’s enjoyed.
“It’s been a good experience,” he said. “It was fun working with Gene and Paul. I’m honored to say that we’re friends now. That’s more than most people can say.”