Hall of Famer Jim Kelly had questions for Dabo during his nephew's recruitment

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Jim Kelly before Saturday's spring game

Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly knows about playing the position, something he started learning during his high school days in Pennsylvania, continued at the University of Miami and honed during a professional career that included a stop with the USFL’s Houston Gamblers before he finally landed in Buffalo.

Because of his experience with the recruiting process and his knowledge of what it takes to get a quarterback to the next level, he had some hard questions for Clemson head coach Dabo SwinneyDabo Swinney
Head Coach
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and offensive coordinator Chad MorrisChad Morris
Offensive Coordinator / QBs
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when they were recruiting Kelly’s nephew, current Clemson quarterback Chad KellyChad Kelly
RS Fr. Quarterback
#11 6-2, 210
Buffalo, NY

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Jim Kelly was in town this past weekend to watch his nephew play in the annual Orange and White Game, and saw Chad lead his team on an early scoring drive before leaving with what later turned out to be a torn ACL.

I caught up with Kelly before the game, and I asked him about Chad’s recruitment and whether he was comfortable with his nephew choosing Clemson, and he said he was after he met with Swinney and Morris and asked some tough questions, including if the pair could get Chad to the next level.

“It goes back to Dabo Swinney and the class act that he is,” Kelly said when I asked him about his feelings for Clemson. “Chad Morris highly recruited him and the things that they have said made a big difference for me. He [Swinney] was nervous when he first met me because he wasn’t sure what to expect. And the first thing I said to him and wanted to know was, ‘Does Chad have a chance there with the style of offense you run?’ Because I know what he wants.

“Like any kid, you ask him about his future aspirations, and you want to know if he wants to get to the next level, and the majority of them do. I wanted to know if he would get the chance to learn on the college level what he needed to know at the professional level. Even though only two or three percent make it to that level. I wanted him to get that chance right away and not have to wait three or four or even five years.”

Kelly finished his 11 NFL seasons with 2,874 completions in 4,779 attempts for 35,467 yards and 237 touchdowns, with 175 interceptions, all of which are Buffalo records. He also rushed for 1,049 yards and 7 touchdowns. At the University of Miami, he finished 406-of-646 for 5,233 yards and 32 TDs.

Kelly’s brother Pat also played in the NFL, all of the brothers played sports, and he said Chad learned about playing quarterback from a very early age, and he wanted Chad to be able to attend a school and be coached by coaches who could help him fulfill his dreams.

“He learned the three-step, five-step and seven-step drop and process since he was probably able to walk,” he said. “Of course I tried to help him out; I actually tried to help out all of my nephews, but he is the one that really excelled, and I wanted to make sure that he developed good habits at an early age.
I haven’t really been able to watch him since he’s been here, but you won’t find anyone that works harder. The bottom line is that when you get the opportunity you had better capitalize on it. Whether it’s Tajh [Boyd] being ahead of him and being able to learn under a good one, or it’s being with a coach like Chad Morris and being able to take advantage of that.”

In a bit of irony, Kelly said that he wouldn’t choose an offense like Morris’ simply because he doesn’t like quarterbacks running the football unless they have to.

“Put it this way, this is not the offense that I would run, because there’s too much running for the quarterback,” Kelly said. “You’ve seen me play, so you understand why I’m saying that. This offense is pretty much right up Chad’s alley, however. He’s a dual threat quarterback. To be honest with you, I don’t want to see them run that much because of the health aspect. Look at what happened to RGIII [Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin, III] this year when you start putting quarterbacks in that situation. But, for the college level and what Clemson wants to do, Chad Morris has done an unbelievable job. It’s an exciting offense and something that I think everyone wants to see.”

The Clemson coaches hope that Chad will be able to resume his football career at some point this fall, and Jim said he thinks his nephew not only has the right attitude to come back stronger than ever from this type of injury, but can be the type of leader the program needs after Boyd leaves.

“He is one of the kids that if you are in a back alley, you want him beside you,” Kelly said. “And if you are in the last two minutes of a football game, you want him in there. I don’t know if that is a family trait, but all five of my brothers were like that and so was I. But he learned from a very early age that when push comes to shove you have to be there for your teammates and be a leader.”

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