Years ago, a friend told Kendell and Katrina Mack about a place they should check out.
After that, on weekends or days off, they’d head to Tampa’s Gandy Beach. They’d set up chairs, and Kendell would light his small grill and start cooking sausages, wings or pork chops. He’d open an Icehouse, and she would pour a glass of white Zinfandel. They’d listen to old school R&B, sometimes Jaheim, or they’d change things up with a little Kodak Black. They’d sit there together for hours.
“Baby,” he said to Katrina once, “that’s our spot.”
One day at the beach, they sat at the clearing between tangles of mangroves when an older couple walked by. They introduced themselves.
They just had to meet Kendell, the couple said. There was something about his energy.
Katrina wasn’t surprised.
“He was that type of guy,” she said. “People flocked to him.”
Kendell Mack, a husband and stepfather, died on Dec. 13 of a heart attack. He was 43.
He grew up in South Carolina and played basketball and football for Auburn University. He started his NFL career with the New England Patriots, then came to Tampa to play guard with the Buccaneers in 2000. Frequent injuries kept sidelined, which frustrated him, and he left football in 2002. Eventually, he started working as a security guard.
He was 6’4, and his size and presence helped him in that career, too.
“He just commanded respect wherever we went,” said Louie DiNicola, who hired Kendell for security in 2010. They soon became close friends. “People just wanted to know who he was.”
Katrina gets that. When he first approached her in 2009 at the Cotton Club and asked for her phone number, she thought, “Wow, look at this big, gentle giant.”
I’m going to call in three days, he told her. I told myself that once I meet the one who I want to marry, I’m not going to call for three days to be respectful.
She felt just as inspired.
“That’s who I’m going to marry,” Katrina told her sister that night. “That’s him.”
Three days later, he texted.
On their first date, he picked her up on his Harley and drove to Clearwater Beach. There, they sat and talked for hours.
They got married in 2011. They found their favorite beach in 2016.
Since his death, Katrina has spent time nearly every day at their spot. He’s gone, but especially there, she still feels his large, joyful spirit.
Senior news researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Want to know more about Kendell? Head over to Instagram and @werememberthem and see one way his wife will remember him. Know someone who has recently died whom we should write about? Send suggestions to Kristen Hare at [email protected]
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story included a photograph from our archives where Kendell Mack was misidentified.