KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee safety Todd Kelly Jr. came to a Vols program in desperate need of a rebuild.
Kelly came in 2014 when the Vols had not won a bowl game in five years. He came to play for coach Butch Jones who had only been on the job one year.
Kelly took the challenge and helped build the program into a winner.
“Having the opportunity to win some ball games here and seeing this program progress day after day, month after month and year after year,” Kelly said. “I think it speaks volumes to this program and what we are trying to do which is win ball games.”
Tennessee has won nine games in each of the past two seasons. The last time the Vols accomplished the feat was in 2006-07. The Vols have won three straight bowl games, as well.
The program stands in better position than when Kelly entered.
Kelly’s time as a Vol will end at the end of the season.
“It’s wild how time flies,” Kelly said. “The veterans told me when I was a freshman that when you blink your eye and snap your finger you’ll be a senior and it’ll be all over. It’ll be your last time running through the ‘T.’”
Kelly’s work has not been only limited to helping build the Vols’ program either. He received a nomination for the AFCA good works team watch list this offseason. The award honors players dedication to volunteering and enriching the lives of others.
For Tennessee to surprise teams in the SEC East this year, the defense will lean on Kelly.
“Safety is a real position of strength,” defensive coordinator Bob Shoop said. “Todd Kelly had a good year for us in a lot of ways last year and Micah Abernathy… Nigel (Warrior) had a really good spring and really good summer. He and Evan Berry have really taken off and look ready to go.”
Kelly recorded a team-high 71 tackles last season along with 2 interceptions, a sack and a forced fumble.