Manning legacy helps inspire Ole Miss QB Kelly for Sugar Bowl
Ole Miss dual-threat playmaker Chad Kelly knows what is ahead of him on January 1st when the 12th-ranked Rebels (9-3, 6-2 SEC) face off against No. 16 Oklahoma State (10-2, 7-2 Big 12) in the AllState Sugar Bowl.
And Kelly is up for what could be a legacy defining moment—not only for the university, but for himself as well.
“It’s huge,” was Kelly’s quick response to what a win in the Sugar Bowl would mean for the program. “We haven’t been there in 40-something years, but I know talking to a lot of people that formerly went here and that have been here for a long time, this is the real deal.
“So, I know we are going to put in all of the hard work we can and get ready for this game and go out and execute.”
Manning Passing Academy
Speaking of legacies, Kelly had a chance to learn from the best at the Manning Passing Academy last summer, as he was one of 40 quarterbacks attending the camp that featured former Ole Miss quarterbacks Archie and Eli Manning and Denver Broncos’ quarterback Peyton Manning.
“I listened to how they prepare for games, how they studied film and how they carried themselves on and off the field,” said Kelly, who finished the regular season first in the Southeastern Conference in passing yards (3,740).
“Everybody is looking at you to be the leader on and off the field,” Kelly added. “You have to conduct yourself with you being the head honcho and the leader of the team.”
Listening to the three legendary Mannings obviously benefited the current Ole Miss quarterback, as Kelly became the first signal-caller at the university to lead the Rebels to victories over Alabama, LSU, and Auburn in the same season. Kelly also became the sixth SEC player in history to have 4,000 total yards in a season.
While at the Manning Passing Academy, Kelly had a chance to talk to Eli Manning, who encouraged the Buffalo, New York native to stay cool, calm, and collected while on the field.
“I think Eli is more of the laid back guy, kind of wants to have fun and be about his business on the field,” Kelly said of the former Ole Miss’ quarterback who was the last pocket passer to lead the Rebels to a SEC Western Division title—a co-championship with LSU—in 2003. “He just told me to go out and have fun; that’s what he did. That’s why he loves the game so much, because he can have fun while doing it.”
Poised in the pocket
All season long, Kelly showed poised in the pocket, not allowing one play to interfere with the next. In the first nine games of this season, Kelly threw 12 interceptions; however, he didn’t allow the turnovers to break his mental toughness.
And in the final three regular season games against LSU, Arkansas and Mississippi State, Kelly didn’t throw a single interception. Instead, he threw seven touchdowns.
Archie Manning on Chad Kelly
A lot of eyes have been watching Kelly this season, especially those of Archie Manning, one of the most beloved Ole Miss quarterbacks of all time—who also happens to be the last Ole Miss leader under center to take the program to a Sugar Bowl in 1970.
It was a 27-22 win over the Razorbacks and in that game, Manning completed 21-of-35 passes for 273 yards and one touchdown en route to being named the Sugar Bowl MVP. Now Kelly has the opportunity to rewrite history and Archie Manning feels confident that the former East Mississippi Community College product has what it takes to get the job done.
“I used to run a little bit, and Chad (Kelly) is certainly a good runner,” Manning said when asked about the similarities between Kelly and himself. “Chad doesn’t throw quite as side arm as I did during those days, but he’s a good-looking passer. I know Chad has had a really outstanding year. I’m very proud of him.”
Feature image credit: Amanda Swain, The Rebel Walk
Courtney is from Memphis and received his Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Arts from the University of Memphis in May of 2014. He began his journalism career covering the Memphis Tigers Men’s basketball team, which landed him an intern position on 730 Yahoo Sports Radio and a position with Rivals.com. A freelance writer for the Associated Press, Courtney is also a member of The Rebel Walk team and reports regularly on Ole Miss football and basketball. Courtney, the father of a six-year old girl named Soniyah, prefers to cover NCAA basketball and football, but is happy to report on any other sport that comes his way.