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OXFORD – Ole Miss senior quarterback Chad Kelly hears the Heisman Trophy talk and sees his name on numerous preseason watch lists, but he remains focused on helping the Rebels achieve greatness as a team—the individual awards can wait.
Ole Miss has had to deal with distractions leading up to its game against Atlantic Coast Conference member and No. 4-ranked Florida State – most notably the ongoing NCAA investigation – but Kelly continues to lead his team and push any negativity to the side, focusing on the positive, instead—which is playing football.
Kelly concentrates on his team and what he can do to win football games—not on outsiders who disparage the team. He doesn’t worry about pundits who leave the Rebels out of the discussion of teams who could win the Southeastern Conference Western Division or get to Atlanta for the SEC Championship game. He will let his team’s performance do the talking.
Preparing for the Seminoles has not been difficult for the Buffalo, New York native, especially since he gained plenty of experience facing tough teams last season in the SEC.
Chad Kelly on team goals
After Ole Miss defeated Alabama last season, Kelly said: “This is awesome. This what you dream about.” After the Rebels defeated Mississippi State in the Egg Bowl, Kelly’s last words were “I am just excited to be a part of this great team.”
Since day one, Kelly’s actions have made it clear he’s unselfish and believes playing for Ole Miss is an honor. The signal caller has also made it obvious he’s not afraid to be big-time when the bright lights come on. And when it comes to preparation, Kelly is second to none. He takes it one game at a time, refusing to jump to next week’s opponent. He treats every opponent the same, despite the record or overall team performance.
But even after earning everyone’s respect from a season ago, Kelly still wears a bit of a chip on his shoulder in terms of wanting to outperform the other team’s signal caller, and he looks forward to playing in Monday’s high-profile game.
Chad Kelly on playing in high-profile games
Kelly is perhaps the only member of the 11th-ranked Rebels who is somewhat familiar with FSU’s defensive schemes since he was once a member of the Clemson Tigers. At Monday’s press conference, Kelly recalled watching film to prepare for the Seminoles.
“When I was at Clemson, they showed a lot of different stuff on tape, and then we go out into the game and they’re playing something totally different,” he said. “We’ve just got to be prepared. That’s how I am preparing – seeing both types of defense they’re willing to play.
“So if we’re all on the same page, we should be good to go.”
FSU will start true freshman quarterback Deondre Francois when Ole Miss and the Seminoles hit the field on Labor Day. Francois, a four-star recruit, was named FSU’s starter under center once redshirt senior Sean Maguire went down with a stress fracture in his right foot a little over two weeks ago.
Kelly has been in Francois’ shoes before, and knows what it’s like to have to adjust to the speed of the game.
“There’s no coaches behind you, so instead of 15, 20 people on the field, there’s just 11,” Kelly said of the difference between practice and play. “But it’ll be good. I was excited for my first time. Any time you get to go out, be the starter and be the man, it’s fun.”
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.