Every so often comes a college athlete with all of the talent in the world that just can’t seem to put it all together. Chad Kelly was the perfect quarterback prospect. He could throw, he could run, he could punt, he could kick and he is the nephew of legendary NFL QB, Jim Kelly. Coming out of high school, Kelly was a 4-star recruit and the 5th overall dual-threat QB. He initially attended Clemson but left after being dismissed for conduct detrimental to the team. After a year in community college, he ended up at Ole Miss and had some really big moments for the Rebels. Kelly eventually made it to the NFL, but didn’t last long. Now that he’s out of the league, let’s check in on former college star QB Chad Kelly.
Chad Kelly’s high school football career
Kelly’s disciplinary problems began well before college. While in high school, his family moved from Western New York to Red Lion, Pennsylvania. The family promptly moved back to New York after Chad was dismissed from the football team, for undisclosed reasons.
Once he returned to the Buffalo area, Kelly began to turn things around. As a junior at St. Joseph’s Collegiate Institute, he was named the captain of both the football and basketball teams. While he had his fair share of problems off the field, he was a different kid on the field. His high school football coach said “He’s a guy who practiced the same on Monday and played in games on Friday. It didn’t matter what it was, even basketball or lacrosse, he competed like crazy.”
After his junior season, Kelly received offers from Clemson, Alabama, Florida State and more. Prior to his senior season he committed to Clemson.
— St. Joe’s Football (@SJCIfootball) November 29, 2015
During his senior year, Kelly put up monster numbers. He broke his school’s single season passing record with 3050 yards, threw for 27 touchdowns, ran for 991 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Kelly’s first college
Chad Kelly’s entrance to Clemson was far from quiet. Before he even arrived on campus, Kelly began talking trash. The incoming freshman knew not to disrespect Tajh Boyd, who was Clemson’s starting QB at the time, but had no problem throwing shade at a backup QB on the roster. Kelly took to Twitter before his freshman year to let Stoudt know that he had plenty of competition in the QB room saying “Your on the bench for a reason! And I come soon! Just letting you know.”
Your on the bench for a reason! And i come soon! Just letting you know
— Chad Kelly (@Chadkelly_6) January 26, 2012
Clemson backup QB Cole Stoudt didn’t take too kindly to Kelly’s word’s saying “I hate those that talk like their the [expletive] when they haven’t done anything yet.” Despite not calling out Boyd, Kelly didn’t plan to sit on the bench saying “I’m coming to Clemson to Play my Freshman year I ain’t going just to sit on the bench.”
Well, Kelly did sit on the bench as he was redshirted for the 2012 season. Although he wasn’t named the starter heading into 2013, Kelly did see some playing time. He appeared in five games, completing 10 passes and even recorded a rushing touchdown. Following the 2013 season, Kelly was dismissed from Clemson.
Last Chance U
After his dismissal from Clemson, Kelly needed a chance to redeem himself. He attended East Mississippi Community College for one season where he absolutely dominated the competition.
While at East Mississippi Community College, Kelly led the Lions to an undefeated 12-0 season. He threw for 3906 yards, 47 touchdowns and only 8 interceptions.
After cleaning it up for a year in community college, Kelly received another chance to play at the NCAA Division 1 level.
Chad Kelly at Ole Miss, beating Alabama and messaging Mia Khalifa
When Kelly arrived on Ole Miss’ campus, the starting QB role was his to lose. He was named the starter prior to the opening game and it didn’t take him long to make some noise.
In Ole Miss’ third game of the season, Kelly and the Rebels traveled to Tuscaloosa to take on the Alabama Crimson Tide. In one of the most memorable college football games of the 21st century, Kelly threw for 341 yards, three touchdowns and 0 interceptions. Ole Miss went on to beat Alabama 43-37 and Kelly became an internet sensation. Ole Miss went 10-3 in Kelly’s first year under center.
Coming into his senior year as a legitimate NFL Draft prospect, the college football world had high expectations for Kelly. The Rebels entered the season ranked No. 9 in the AP Poll and had a tough first matchup against No. 4 Florida State. You’d expect Kelly to be locked in, but he had other things on his mind.
Prior to Ole Miss’ Week 1 game against FSU, Kelly slid into Mia Khalifa’s DMs on Instagram. Khalifa tweeted “Shoulda spent more time in your playbook and less time in my DM’s #NOLES.”
— Mia K. (@miakhalifa) September 6, 2016
Although his messages were relatively innocent, maybe Kelly should have taken Khalifa’s advice. Kelly threw three interceptions and Ole Miss lost to Florida State 45 to 34.
The beginning of the end
Ole Miss would lose three more games in 2016 before Kelly went down with an injury. In a game against Georgia Southern, Kelly tore his ACL and lateral meniscus, resulting in season ending surgery.
Kelly had hopes to perform at the NFL Combine, but his invite was rescinded because of off the field issues.
Kelly’s representation did not think it was fair saying “We don’t know this for sure, but it could be marketing strategy” adding…”The NFL is a billion-dollar brand. We’ve become more concerned with making sure that we have the proper dressing in relation to producing a good [product] or advertising a good [product]. If they feel like a player like Chad Kelly will be there, and they don’t want certain things to be told or be heard or discussed because for whatever reason they feel like that doesn’t add to the brand of the NFL, then they could take preventative measures against him and discriminate against him.”
While his draft stock was already falling, this combine snub certainly did not help. Despite the concerns over his off-the-field behavior, Kelly was selected with the final pick of the NFL Draft by the Denver Broncos. John Elway commented on the pick saying “I called his uncle and he said he’s a good kid.”
John Elway on Chad Kelly’s issues: "I called his uncle and he said he's a good kid."
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) April 29, 2017
Chad Kelly’s time in the NFL with the Broncos and Colts
Kelly underwent surgery prior to his rookie year and sat out the entire season. He entered one game in 2017, but it was just to take a knee at the end of the first half.
A little over a week after appearing in his first NFL game, Kelly was arrested for criminal trespassing. The Broncos cut Kelly immediately after.
Official: The Broncos have cut ties with QB Chad Kelly following an arrest for criminal trespassing.
John Elway: "Even though Chad’s no longer part of our team, we’ve offered to help him however we can and are supportive of him in every possible way.” pic.twitter.com/U2vpO8G9tR
— Kyle Fredrickson (@kylefredrickson) October 24, 2018
Kelly’s next stop in the NFL was with the Indianapolis Colts. Similarly to just about everywhere else he played, Kelly got off to a rocky start in Indi. He was suspended for the first two games of the season for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy.
He bounced around between the Colts practice squad and active roster for a year before being released early in the 2020 season.
Just when people began to forget about Kelly, he received another second chance. At the start of the 2021 playoffs, Kelly landed a tryout with the Buffalo Bills. He didn’t make the team, but it goes to show that Kelly is still on the minds of some NFL GMs.
Where is Chad Kelly now? The latest news
Heading into the 2021 season, Kelly will have a chance to compete for a spot on the Green Bay Packers roster.
Packers QB’s, Chad Kelly and Kurt Benkert perfect during the net drill pic.twitter.com/qHzMFZYOvc
— Chancellor Johnson (@ChancellorTV) May 15, 2021
While it’s tough to root for a guy who has shot himself in the foot so many times, it really does stink to see an athlete with so much talent not live up to his potential.
We wish Chad the best of luck going forward.