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  • Ben Grant

Is This Kelly's Last Shot?

The Toronto Argonauts have signed American QB Chad Kelly, whose rights were acquired as part of the Nick Arbuckle trade with Edmonton back in October.

Kelly might have a better college resume than any quarterback currently in the CFL. This fact makes the signing exciting, but as fans have seen through the years, NCAA and NFL success rarely translates into CFL productivity, so it would be premature to look at Kelly as anything other than a guy coming in to complete for the third string quarterback job behind McLeod Bethel-Thompson and Antonio Pipkin.

I have followed Chad Kelly’s career since he was in high school because I always thought he’d be the next big thing. Growing up, I was a fan of his uncle, Buffalo Bills QB Jim Kelly, and like a lot of people I unfairly expected him to become Jim – or possibly an even better version because Chad had a level of athleticism that eluded the Hall of Famer. It was this pressure that probably led to Chad getting into trouble off the field at just about every stop, despite being virtually unstoppable on the field.

At Red Lion High School in Pennsylvania, he was suspended for the final seven games of his freshman season and eventually kicked off the team. He then transferred to St Joseph’s Collegiate Institute near Buffalo and led the Masked Marauders to back-to-back AA Championship games and was named the MVP in their title-winning game.

Things appeared to be back on track for Chad, but after committing to Clemson, he made an ill-advised tweet warning Clemson’s backup quarterback that he was coming to take the starting job. The tweet went viral and turned into a PR nightmare for the Tigers. His relationship with the coaching staff never recovered, and after getting into an argument with them at a spring game, he was kicked off the team.

Just days later, he enrolled at JUCO powerhouse EMCC and went undefeated as the starter winning a national championship.

With things looking up once again he signed a full scholarship at Ole Miss, but days later found himself in a jail cell following an early morning fight at a nightclub. Kelly was charged with 3rd degree assault, 2nd degree menacing, resisting arrest, 4th degree criminal mischief, and 2nd degree obstructing governmental administration. Fortunately for him, Ole Miss allowed him to stay under a zero-tolerance policy, and it paid off. Kelly seemed to have turned his life around and in just his second start for the Rebels, he defeated #2 ranked Alabama in Tuscaloosa. That season, Kelly would also lead the team to a win over #15 LSU, and finish up the year as Sugar Bowl MVP in a victory over #16 Oklahoma State.

Kelly was drafted by the Denver Broncos in the 2017 NFL Draft and won the backup job behind starter Case Keenum. However, in October of his second season he was released by the Broncos after being arrested and charged with criminal trespassing.

In the spring of 2019, Kelly signed with the Indianapolis Colts where he spent the majority of the season on the team’s practice squad.

Chad Kelly is a highly talented quarterback. He has an absolute cannon for an arm, his accuracy is good, and so is his mobility. To succeed as a pro on the field, he needs to speed up his processing time, but that’s typical of any young quarterback. The bigger issue is whether or not he will allow himself to succeed off the field. If he is patient, willing to learn, stays out of trouble, and he gives the Argos the same effort he gave Ole Miss, there’s no question he’s capable of becoming a household name in this league.

Those are a lot of ifs and he’s already had a lot of chances, but there’s no better mentor than Pinball Clemons. Chad Kelly has made a lot of positive strides over the past few years, let’s see if Pinball can help walk him home.


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