AUBURN, Ala. — Auburn defensive coordinator Kevin Steele is more than familiar with Ole Miss quarterback Chad Kelly.
In addition to knowing one other on a personal level, Kelly — who took his last snap as the Rebels’ quarterback after suffering a torn ACL and meniscus in their win over Georgia Southern on Saturday — picked apart Steele’s defense at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium on Oct. 29.
The quarterback threw for 465 yards and 3 touchdowns, breaking Archie Manning’s single-game record for passing yards in the Tigers’ 40-29 win.
Steele was unaware of Kelly’s injury prior to his weekly press conference on Sunday night, but had plenty of praise when he learned of his season-ending injury — even going as far as to call him “the perfect competitor.”
“He affected that whole football team with his mental toughness, his tenacity, how competitive he was,” Steele said. “When you watch all of his games last year, which I’ve done and then some, the only game I haven’t watched on video is the one he just played this past week. That guy affected every single game with his competitiveness, but also with his ability. He is as accurate as a quarterback and can throw as many different versions of balls as I’ve seen in a while. He’s a very, very talented young man that you can see he loves to play football.”
In his 36 years of coaching, Steele crossed many quarterbacks who were internally competitive, but few had a disposition resembling a linebacker’s.
“He affects everybody on the team, not just the offense, not just throwing the ball and catching it,” Steele said. “He affects the whole disposition of the team. That’s kind of what I saw in him.”
Steele understands the rehabilitation process will be grueling but also believes Kelly soon could be playing on Sundays.
“He’s tough enough he’ll bounce back,” Steele said. “He’s got enough talent that I don’t think it’ll be his last football game.”