Chad Kelly turns to Uncle Jim
Watch List QB uses his uncle, Hall of Famer Jim Kelly, to help improve his game
The emergence of ESPNU Watch List quarterback Chad Kelly has surprised many, including his uncle, Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly.
"To be honest with you, my uncle had no clue I would be recruited like I have been," said Chad Kelly, who plays at Buffalo (N.Y.) St. Joseph's Collegiate Institute. "I think one day it hit him that his nephew, his godson, could have the opportunity to play major college football."
And with that the uncle began to get serious about teaching his nephew. And after a junior season that saw the 6-foot-2, 205-pounder throw for 2,000 yards and rush for 1,000 yards, it was obvious that his nephew was a player.
Much of their work together was on display last week at the Elite 11 regional in Columbus, Ohio. It was a star-studded affair with players such Under Armour All-Americans Gunner Kiel and Jameis Winston and Auburn commit Zeke Pike.
"There were some awesome quarterbacks there and some great coaching," Kelly said. "Each drill we did had a meaning to it. Just the warm-ups and everything and doing a lot of the fundamentals. Checkdowns, checking to each side of the line. It's something I'd love to go back to."
On the surface there was a lot of joking and camaraderie between the players, but it was a still a competition and another chance for Kelly to prove himself.
"People think that Buffalo competition isn't too good, so I wanted to go there and represent the players in this area because there are good players here," Kelly added. "I thought I was one of the best if not the best there and competition is always in the back of my mind."
His effort wasn't lost on many of the observers.
"Obviously level of competition is a concern, but Kelly has that 'it' factor you like to see," said Tom Luginbill, ESPN's national director of recruiting. "He is a terrific athlete, he is well built and he is a better passer than his film will indicate at times. He is a guy that has pocket-passer characteristics but could easily play in the spread and be a dangerous weapon as a runner."
More than 15 major college programs also believe Kelly has the "it" factor and have offered scholarships. Recently Kelly has trimmed his list to seven and talked about each program.
• Florida State: "After being down there and seeing what they do to get their quarterbacks ready, it's easy to understand why players have so much success under coach [Jimbo] Fisher. People didn't think Christian Ponder would get picked in the first or second round, but they don't understand how prepared he was for the pro game through the FSU coaching staff. Coach Fisher, coach [Dameyune] Craig and coach [James] Coley go through everything with their quarterbacks -- things that you aren't supposed to learn at the college level. It's amazing. Coach Fisher is a straight shooter and he tells you exactly what needs to be said."
• Alabama: "The program speaks for itself. It's a consistent championship contender and a place where great quarterbacks and great players have come from. The coaches I talk to are great people, and I can't wait to go down there and see everything they have to offer."
• Clemson: "Coach [Dabo] Swinney is a great guy, and the campus is just a special place. The people there are so kind and friendly. It really felt comfortable. There is potential for any quarterback in that system to be a Heisman contender under coach [Chad] Morris because there are so many good weapons on offense, and he's going to put you in the right place to utilize all of them. I fell in love with Clemson when I took a visit there."
• Purdue: "Drew Brees, Kyle Orton, Curtis Painter -- the recent legacy of quarterbacks at Purdue speaks for itself. I think it's 'Quarterback U.' The facilities are just beautiful, I didn't expect them to be as great as they were. There are a lot of connections to my family on the coaching staff, so it's a very comfortable place for me."
• Michigan State: "They are doing everything pro style, and even though they are a great running team the quarterbacks coming through the program are NFL ready. Their current quarterback, Kirk Cousins, is going to be drafted, too. I have some family in the area, and if I wanted to get away from everything for a few minutes, they would be right there for me."
• Buffalo: "They have six quarterbacks right now, but I think I can compete with them right away. It's home, it's where my family is. If I stay here I would still be coached by my uncle. My little brother is 10, and I don't know if I want to leave him. Family is everything to me, and Buffalo would give me the opportunity to be around my family all the time. Coach [Jeff] Quinn is keeping the program on the right track and big things are coming."
• Syracuse: "I visited there in my sophomore year and they were interested. Coach [Nathaniel] Hackett, their offensive coordinator, is supposedly the next big-time coach, according to my uncle. It's close to home, and I feel like they are heading to the top of the Big East. Lots of great quarterbacks, like Donovan McNabb, came from the program."
Kelly visited Clemson and Florida State for their spring games in April. He plans on heading back to Florida State on June 19 and will visit Alabama on June 13. He also plans on taking another visit during the same time period.
The quarterback says he'll make his decision in about a month.
"I want to win a national championship, that's been my dream since I was a child." Kelly said. "I want strong academics; I currently go to a school now where academics are challenging, and I want that because education is the key. And if I'm going away from my family I definitely want to go to a place that feels like home and a place where the coaching staff will be there the whole time."
Corey Long has been covering high school football and recruiting in the Sunshine State since 1995. He can be reached at email@example.com.