Who is John Kelly? 5 things to know about Tennessee’s skateboarding RB

What if I told you that the most important running back Tennessee signed in the 2015 recruiting class wasn’t Alvin Kamara, the standout who’s currently in the NFL? It was in fact junior John Kelly.

At the time he was signed, Kelly was a three-star prospect, likely due in part to his 5’9 stature. He’s from Detroit and was classified as simply an athlete. His ESPN recruiting profile was a good breakdown of his skills, but it does show that because some players develop at a different rate, their talent curve may not perfectly align with the rhythm of a traditional recruiting cycle.

Kelly could really end up on either side of the ball for the next level. His athletic ability could land up as a perimeter defender. A potential [Power 5] level player.

Besides in-state Michigan and Tennessee, he wasn’t offered a scholarship by any high-profile programs.

We’ve spent a lot of time making fun of Tennessee this season. We will likely continue to do so, if it sputters through 2017. But Kelly is no laughing matter. He’s legit. Here’s why.

Often, you picture football players dabbling in basketball or baseball or track in their offseasons. Kelly’s different.

He took up the sport when he was nine, and it even started to butt heads with his football career, when he would skip summer workouts to go down to the skate park in high school. Coaches coaxed him off the board and into some cleats, but it influences his running style.

“When you’d be at the top just looking down at 13 stairs and be like, ‘Whoa. That’s a lot of stairs,’ you just have to just forget about it all and just go for it,” Kelly said.

“That’s just how I think when I run the ball. The gap isn’t always going to be there, but when it is you can’t hesitate. You have to just go for it. It taught me how to fall. I don’t want to just face-plant every time I get hit.”


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