HOOVER, Ala. — Maybe Ole Miss quarterback Chad Kelly will clash with Deshaun Watson and some of his other former Clemson teammates in a 2016 College Football Playoff game.
For now, Kelly’s mind is on a season opener against Clemson rival Florida State, with no hard feelings about his former school. Kelly was kicked off the Clemson team in 2014, stopping at East Mississippi Junior College on his way to leading Ole Miss to a 10-3 record and Sugar Bowl victory over Oklahoma State as a junior last season.
“I hate that it turned out that way (at Clemson),” Kelly said Thursday at SEC Media Days, “but I know I made relationships for a lifetime. Reflecting on the whole career, I was in a blessed situation. I might have been a little immature but I’m glad that God guided me through tough times getting me to where I am today.”
Kelly, nephew of Pro Football Hall of Famer Jim Kelly, suffered a torn ACL in Clemson’s 2013 spring game but hurried back to competition and saw action in five 2013 games. Head coach Dabo Swinney dismissed Kelly for a “pattern of behavior that is not consistent with the values of our program,” including a verbal spat with coaches during the 2014 spring game.
Kelly got in more trouble after joining Ole Miss. He was arrested in his hometown of Buffalo, N.Y., for allegedly punching a bar bouncer and threatening to riddle the bar with machine gun fire (Kelly’s plea deal included only a disorderly conduct charge).
Oxford and Kelly have been good for each other. He became the first quarterback to lead Ole Miss to victories over Alabama, Auburn and LSU in the same season. Kelly’s 4,042 passing yards and 4,542 total yards were third-most in a season in SEC history.
“It’s a dream come true,” said Kelly, 6-2, 215. “I mean, when I was a kid I used to dream about playing college football one day and now I’m playing in the best conference, and I truly believe that. You just have to keep coming to work in order to be the best.”
Kelly on Thursday credited Clemson coaches, specifically mentioning Swinney and former offensive coordinator Chad Morris, for teaching him about college football work ethic (he also said “the real Death Valley” is at LSU). It has been a gradual process, but Kelly has become a leader, Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze said.
“He’s a gym rat,” Freeze said. “He studies more film than the coaches.”
Follow Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff