|by Nikki Steele|
Kelly hasn’t seen the field in nearly two years after a redshirt season and a torn ACL, and when he finally lined up under center Saturday afternoon, one of his childhood dreams came true.
Kelly took the long road to the Death Valley field, but he told the media that he was blessed to be able to check off one of his dreams on a long list of goals that he has set for himself.
“It was a true blessing knowing that I was able to play in my first ever college football game,” Kelly said Tuesday in the WestZone. “I set so many goals for myself back in the eighth grade that I had written them down. One of them was to play in a Division I college football game, and I’ve been able to do that. There’s a whole lot more than that I want to check off. I know it’s coming soon.”
Such a blessing, that he even thanked South Carolina State’s defensive lineman for hitting him.
“Just to be tackled in a game situation – I haven’t been tackled in two years – felt real good,” Kelly said. “I got up and was like, ‘this is real cool.’ I told the defensive lineman, ‘thanks for the tackle, man!’ It really did feel good to get out there and get tackled by an opposing team.”
Kelly tore his ACL during Clemson’s annual Orange & White Game, and every day for the last five months, he has woken up thinking about his knee; however he knew that if he saw the chance to play against South Carolina State that his knee couldn’t be the center of attention.
“During the five months that I was injured I woke up thinking that I have a torn ACL, but then I knew that I couldn’t think about that through out the whole day [on Saturday],” Kelly said. “I knew that I just had to go out there and do what I was doing and play and not think about that.”
He credits the Clemson training staff for making him believe that his knee is as good as new.
“I feel perfectly fine. That’s just a testament to working hard and the people on the training staff getting me to feel like it’s a brand new knee and nothing is wrong with it,” Kelly said. “I definitely give them all of the credit for pushing me every day and saying, ‘You know what, if you don’t’ come everyday at 6 a.m. then you aren’t going to be able to feel right.’”
“I wasn’t trying to be timid,” Kelly said. “I wanted to go out and play the game like I normally would and not do something that I wouldn’t normally do and making that cut and is exactly the cut I made that tore my ACL. It was in the back of your mind, but really you are just going out playing and whatever happens, happens.”
Despite being medically cleared, Kelly saw some swelling in his knee after the Saturday and said that he will continue treatments with the medical staff for the foreseeable future.
“It swelled up from the game Saturday, I’m not really in any pain,” Kelly said. “I will be going in at 6 a.m. everyday all through the year. I will also wear the brace for the rest of the season and maybe into the spring.”
Nikki Steele can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org