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"A totally different guy": The most sad and disappointing aspect of the Chad Kelly situation

Ryan Koenigsberg Avatar
October 25, 2018

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Chad Kelly’s transgressions were anything but a secret when he was selected by the Broncos as the most relevant Mr. Irrelevant ever back in April of 2017.

He was dismissed from Clemson for “detrimental conduct,” he plead guilty to a disorderly conduct charge stemming from a nightclub brawl, he was involved in an on-field brawl at a high school football game that his brother was playing in. Simply put, he had a very bad reputation.

When he came to Denver, it’s not unfair to say that he didn’t exactly shake that reputation right away. Dealing with a torn ACL, a wrist injury and a sports hernia, Kelly essentially knew from day one that he would be getting a “redshirt” season. Throughout the entirety of that season, multiple sources conveyed to BSN Denver that Kelly was taking advantage of his “year off” from an off-the-field standpoint

One source, at the time, said that Kelly and since-cut-teammate Carlos Henderson—who was also on IR—were “on a path that leads right out of the league.”

Despite all of that, though, there was still a special allure with the highly-successful college quarterback. When he was finally healthy enough to throw, he could be seen after practice throwing the ball 70+ yards effortlessly.

One day, as he was getting ready to leave the building, Zac Stevens and I watched as he gazed at the three Lombardi trophies in the lobby of the UC Health Training Center for minutes upon minutes. He stared and stared and stared, admiring the shine of football’s greatest prize.

It was a moment that just gave you the feeling that maybe he had “it.” A moment you thought you’d write about the day he did something special.

In 2018, that “something special” started to feel like it could become a reality.

Something changed within Chad Kelly. It was as if he went from boy to man overnight. The same people who spoke of his transgressions the year before with their teeth clenched and their eyes to the side, now spoke of him with bright eyes and raised eyebrows, they were blown away by the “new Chad Kelly.”

“He’s a completely different guy,” a source said during training camp. “None of that bulls*** from last year.”

Suddenly, Kelly was an NFL grinder. Suddenly, he was Case Keenum’s shadow, following his every move and sometimes even beating Keenum to the facility in the wee hours of the morning. He was truly embodying the first-guy-in-last-guy-out cliche, spending a significant amount of time on the field after practice every single day before late-night film sessions with Keenum later. Chad Kelly wanted to be a true pro.

On the sidelines, he looked like the consummate teammate, constantly doing everything he could to fire up the crowd and urge on his fellow Broncos, always equipped with a big smile on his face.

To those around him, the light bulb had gone on for the genuinely-talented quarterback. Their wasted-talent worries were quickly fading away.

“You can ask anybody in our receiver group, from last year to this year, Chad was a totally different guy,” fellow 2017 draftee Isaiah McKenzie told BSN Denver on Wednesday. “He would come here early every day to get his job done and that’s why he became the backup quarterback. He did what he had to do.”

And it wasn’t just on the football field.

“Chad, he’s worked very hard to better himself as a man,” Chris Harris Jr. said.

“Chad is a great friend and a great teammate,” added McKenzie.

“Chad’s a really good friend,” chimed in Keenum.

And most telling, maybe, is the heartfelt endorsement from a guy who has only known him this year, Kevin Hogan.

“Chad is an unbelievable person,” he said, displaying obvious emotion. “It’s very unfortunate what happened. I don’t think that reflects one bit about him. He was nothing but a great teammate and a great friend. He helped bring me along. He helped make that quarterback room a great room to be a part of. I’m hoping that all the best goes his way—rooting for him so much. He’s a great person.

“A lot of people just see the guy in the uniform or see stuff in the news, but as for his character and who he is, he is a really great person. He means really well. He was a great teammate in this locker room, and I know all the guys support him and are hoping that all the best goes his way.”

That, folks, is what makes the events of Tuesday morning so sad and so disappointing. As Kelly fell back to old habits and made one big mistake that landed him in a jail cell, all of the effort he had put into bettering himself as a man and as a football player was essentially thrown out the window. Of course, he will still have his chances to get back onto the right path, and maybe he’ll even get another chance on the football field, but to the outside world, a man who was working to be better without much publicity went right back to the guy he was in college—right back to the “thug” so many wanted to make him out to be.

“That’s part of life,” McKenzie concluded. “One negative thing can mess up a whole bunch of positives. It’s sad.”

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