QB Chad Kelly brings renewed faith and focus to second year with Rebels
OXFORD – Chad Kelly came in with the weight of the world hanging over his head from his previous stint at the University of Clemson, but since his arrival in Oxford, the Ole Miss quarterback has become the face of Ole Miss Football.
Rebels’ head coach Hugh Freeze has said a number of times he knew it was a risk to bring in a quarterback who had to take a step back from playing for a Division I program and spend some time in the junior college ranks. However, once Kelly arrived in Oxford last January and worked diligently to earn his first snap for the Rebels last fall against Tennessee-Martin, he ended all the questions about whether or not he could make it work at Ole Miss.
Kelly’s on-field prowess
Kelly led the Rebels last season to a 10-3 overall record (6-2 in the Southeastern Conference) and a 48-20 shellacking of Oklahoma State in the Allstate Sugar Bowl.
He also led the SEC in passing yards (4,042), broke or tied 14 single-season school records, including total offense yards (4,542), touchdowns responsible for (41) and completion percentage (65.1).
Believing in second chances
“I believe in the nature of kids and believe in giving them second chances,” Freeze said at Thursday’s first press conference of the spring. “And obviously, I did with Chad. Was it a concern that he could do something that would bring him embarrassment? Of course. But I have that concern with every kid because they are kids,” he explained.
Freeze is obviously proud of his senior quarterback, saying: “I couldn’t be more pleased with what Chad has done on and off the field. He just continues to seek out the type of man he wants to be known and he continues to rewrite his story.”
A new chapter guided by faith
So what type of story has Kelly written in just a year with Ole Miss? One very important chapter for the quarterback was written recently in Oxford, with the senior signal-caller announcing at yesterday’s spring press conference:
Ole Miss QB Chad Kelly
Kelly also was quick to mention how Coach Freeze has been one of the cornerstones for his overcoming past troubles. “That’s a big step in my faith and what I’m trying to accomplish in life. It’s huge having a guy like Freeze, who understands where I come from and understands what I want to be.
“And I get to rewrite my story. Having him be there all the time for me, like another father, is just perfect.”
Part of Kelly’s direction to his newfound faith in God started when he met University of Florida’s former quarterback Tim Tebow on the field before the Rebels took on Arkansas on Nov. 7. Tebow’s words helped Kelly become more comfortable and confident in being the starting quarterback for Ole Miss since the departures of DeVante Kincade and Ryan Buchanan.
Dedicated to improvement
And from here on out, all eyes – during spring and leading up to next season – will be on Kelly. He brings a competitive fire to the football program, and his Ole Miss fans are looking forward to celebrating his offensive encore this season.
As it stands right now, freshmen Shea Patterson and Jason Pellerin are listed behind Kelly as the other two quarterbacks on the depth chart.
But don’t think Kelly will relax in the starting role, because he knows he could go from starter to spectator in the blink of an eye.
“There’s always room for improvement every single time you step on the field,” Kelly said.
(Feature image credit: Courtney Smith, The Rebel Walk)