OXFORD, Miss. — By now, Chad Kelly is no stranger to uncomfortable questions.
The former Ole Miss quarterback understands why, despite having all the arm talent in the world, NFL teams want to know about the public mistakes that continue to trail him. His dismissal from Clemson. Storming the field during a fight at his brother’s high school game. A December 2014 arrest stemming from a late-night altercation in Buffalo, which later led the league to rescind his combine invitation.
As he prepares for the NFL draft, Kelly has had no choice but to own his missteps. And on Monday — following an injury-shortened pro day that left him “very frustrated” — the pro football legacy discussed his past shortcomings with humility and some candor.
“Not only Clemson, (but) even in high school, it still follows me,” said Kelly, the nephew of Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly. “Every decision, everything you do is going to be put under a microscope. One bad thing can blow up just like that. I just got to be smart with everything I do.”
Despite not attending the combine in Indianapolis, Kelly has still spoken with several NFL clubs; he has a few meetings scheduled for later this week and likely more on tap when he throws at Ole Miss again on April 22.
So what can a quarterback tell teams that might invest millions in his football future? Kelly actually mentioned his younger brother, Casey — the same one Kelly charged onto the field to defend last fall.
“You try to let them know you’re not the same person,” Kelly said. “I just had my 23rd birthday last week. You got to be a more mature person.
“Me and my brother talk all the time. He had kids two weeks ago trying to fight him, about 10 of them, talking crap about me. He was more mature, enough to walk away from that situation and not get involved in that. If my 16-year-old brother can walk away from situations, I sure should be able to if I’m 23 years old.”
Kelly’s draft projections range all over the place, as his ACL rehab and prior indiscretions have resulted in varying opinions of the college star. Nearly everyone agrees that his arm is dynamite, though, and his production at Ole Miss (6,800 yards passing, 50 touchdowns) certainly backs that up.
If Kelly can harness his gunslinger mentality and keep it confined to the football field, NFL teams are getting a centerpiece-type player. Of course, that “if” is what will ultimately determine his fate at the next level.
“You’re getting a great leader, a hard worker and a guy who doesn’t ever give up, no matter how hard the situation,” Kelly said. “Not only that, you’re getting a guy who has an arm, that can throw it all over the field. I just want to show them I’m a mature quarterback that can lead a franchise.”