KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — It has been a long road to the top for Tennessee’s John Kelly, a sophomore from Detroit who through hard work and team attrition has found his way into the spotlight.
“I would say I weighed 200 pounds soaking wet when I got here,” Kelly said, “so I’ve definitely made use of that Tennessee weight room.”
Kelly has become a heavyweight in his own respect, winning over teammates and now fans after his dynamic 7-carry, 104-yard performance in the Vols’ 55-0 win against Tennessee Tech on Saturday at Neyland Stadium.
“It’s a confidence booster, and I’m glad we were able to go out there and execute,” said Kelly, who is averaging 7.8 yards per carry this season with 313 yards on 40 carries.
“We need every single win we can get, so this was a huge win for us. So I’m proud my guys were able to get it done.”
Kelly is one of the most popular players in the locker room, and his enthusiasm appears to have a ripple effect.
Brett Kendrick said last week the offensive line would do everything it could to get Kelly into the end zone as many times as possible, and Coach Butch Jones has described Kelly as a leader behind the scenes.
Kelly said he lifted Tennessee guard Jashon Robertson off the ground after his 73-yard TD run because “he basically scored that touchdown for me” with the lead block.
As for Jones’ assertion that it was one of the Vols’ biggest locker room celebrations after the game, Kelly explained why.
“Because it’s been a long time coming,” Kelly said. “We needed this win. We hadn’t won in a while. Once we got to that locker room we were able to turn up and enjoy each other’s company.”