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9/20/2015 8:00 am  #1

Has Chad Kelly finally grown up?

I remember Kelly from his troubled days at Red Lion and on through prep schools, Clemson, junior colleges etc. I hope he has matured and learned that football is a team game and that he's not something real special and above the rules. He's having some success at Ole Miss. Hopefully, he won't revert to his old ways if he has a bad game.


By David Ubben

Chad Kelly had a few questions for his junior college coaches, sending them digging for their record books.

"How many yards did Bo Wallace have here?"

"What about Randall Mackey?"

Kelly was fresh off a dismissal from Clemson and heading for a season in the juco ranks. His coaches at East Mississippi Community College hadn't even named him starter for the 2014 season, but he already wanted to talk national titles, too.

Now the starting quarterback for No. 15 Ole Miss, Kelly -- the nephew of Buffalo Bills great Jim Kelly -- is under a bright spotlight. The line between cockiness and confidence often depends on both perspective and the stat sheet. What sounds like cockiness when you've got 58 passing yards in a season sounds a lot like confidence when you top 4,000.

"People think he's an arrogant kid, a cocky kid," EMCC offensive coordinator Marcus Wood told Sports on Earth this week. "I could see where people think he's cocky. He wants the ball. He wants to take the last second shot in basketball. He wants to go up to the plate with two outs in the ninth. People see that and think he's selfish."

At Clemson, Kelly's career ended with a high-profile dismissal after a verbal confrontation with Tigers coaches during their 2014 spring game. That denied him a chance of winning the starting quarterback job for a Clemson program that would compete for an ACC title in front of 81,000 fans every Saturday.

Instead, Kelly spent his Saturdays last fall in front of around 5,000 fans, where he took EMCC to a juco national title, giving him a chance to take another shot at major college football afterward. Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze got him to stay in Mississippi for his second chance, but Kelly produced questions about how much he'd really grown after an arrest just days after signing with the Rebels in December.

Kelly was involved in an altercation with police and a bouncer at a downtown Buffalo bar and restaurant and initially faced numerous charges, but he accepted a plea agreement. He completed 50 hours of community service after a non-criminal disorderly conduct charge, and this summer, he also joined his new teammates and Freeze on a spring break mission trip to Haiti, where Rebels players helped build a clean drinking reservoir for thousands of Haitians.

So, for now, he's safely on the "confidence" side of the line in Oxford after winning the starting job and carrying the Rebels to 149 points through two games entering this Saturday's clash at No. 2 Alabama. Call Kelly what you will, but he'd call himself the quarterback of a top-15 team with nation's top scoring offense.

"I assure you I am trying to keep him grounded; I do think that Chad is very grounded right now," Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze told reporters this week. "The national media will tend to say things that, in my opinion, they shouldn't say when they get a microphone. Chad has been called a ticking time bomb three or four times. I want to ask those guys if they have kids when I hear this. You know, he might be a ticking time bomb, but thus far he has not been. Chad seems to be really, really grounded. He is extremely hungry to be coached and do well. So, yes, it is always a concern of mine but so far I am confident he has his head in the right place."

Kelly has thrown for 557 yards and six touchdowns against Tennessee-Martin and Fresno State, and Saturday's game at Alabama will be his first real test at Ole Miss. But Kelly already passed a big test during his exile to the junior college ranks.

After his dismissal at Clemson in April 2014, Kelly didn't return the first few calls and texts from Wood and EMCC head coach Buddy Stephens in April 2014. A few days later, Kelly reached out, wanting a fresh start. He visited the campus and explained the incident at Clemson as competitive drive pushing him to lose control of his actions.

"He didn't try to sidestep anything," Wood said. "He knew he did some things wrong, but he also felt like some things were taken out of context."

Wood and Stephens knew an All-American quarterback when they saw one; EMCC had boasted several during its run. They researched his past and talked to high school coaches and didn't find any problems they were concerned with, calling the decision to extend an invitation to the former four-star recruit a "no-brainer."

"He was sharp, hungry," Wood said. "He'd been humbled by what he went through. You're at a big time program like Clemson, the nephew of a Hall-of-Famer, and suddenly you're in a town of 700 people in Mississippi."

Kelly tore his ACL in the 2013 spring game and playing sparingly at Clemson, throwing just 17 passes as a backup to Tajh Boyd. At EMCC, he stepped on campus and carried himself as though he'd be the quarterback to carry the team to a championship, and revive his career in the process.

Kelly didn't break Wallace's or Mackey's records, but he rose to the top three in nearly every passing statistic, and he did get that national title he craved when he arrived in Scooba, Miss.

"His desire to be on that stage at that time when it's crunch time is what sets him apart," Wood said. "People look at him and think he's a hot dog or showboat. He was a great teammate."

His investment earned mountains of interest in helping him reboot his career at the FBS level, just like he'd had in high school at St. Joseph's in Buffalo. Maybe there's something about being inside the Mississippi state line that keeps Kelly in line, but since the initial incident, he's been everything Freeze and Ole Miss had hoped he could be when he signed.

"Chad studies more film than I do. I think that is obvious in the way that he has performed," Freeze said. "I had one of my three or four meetings with him per week, last week, and he used a phrase that I believe he found in an article that has really stuck with me. Chad said, 'Coach, I desperately want you to coach me.' I think that speaks to his mindset right now.

"He doesn't just want to be coached in the Xs and Os, but I think he is trying to rewrite his story in a really good way."


9/21/2015 11:56 am  #2

Re: Has Chad Kelly finally grown up?

He played an outstanding game against Alabama last Saturday night. Would have never expected him to go into Tuscaloosa and put up 43 points.

Ole' Miss has a legit shot of winning the national title this year.

I think you're going to see a lot of different United States of America over the next three, four, or eight years. - President Donald J. Trump

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