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Multi-talented Kelly provides Newberry with several options along the front lines

Posted: February 25, 2016 1:37 p.m.
Updated: February 26, 2016 1:00 a.m.
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CAMDEN HIGH’S TYRONE KELLY signed a National Letter of Intent to continue his academic and football-playing endeavors at Newberry College. The Bulldog defensive end was joined by his parents, Tyrone and Delores Kelly, along with his brother Taylor Kelly, who played football and basketball with Tyrone. Looking on from behind, from left, are CHS defensive line coach Denny Beckley, CHS head coach Jimmy Neal and CHS principal Dan Matthews.

Even as a freshman and sophomore, Tyrone Kelly stood out above the rest of his Camden High football teammates. That, however, was in height only.

By the time his junior season rolled around, the now-6-foot-4, 245-pound defensive end was no longer just the big kid on the sidelines. Instead, he was the dominant force on the field for Jimmy Neal’s Bulldogs.

Kelly never slowed down after settling into a starting role. This past season, he was selected to the South Carolina Shrine Bowl squad and was ranked as the 20th best high school senior football player in the Palmetto State by 24/7sports.com.

Kelly was also one of the state’s last high-profile football players to make his college destination known as the two-year CHS starter signed a National Letter of Intent with Newberry College on Monday. The decision came after several Football Championship Series programs offered Kelly, who also attracted looks from a handful of Football Bowl Series schools.

In the end, it came down to where Kelly felt he would be most comfortable going to school for the next four years. Newberry, he said, was the perfect place for him to continue his academic and football-playing careers.

“I just felt like it is a great school. I like the people there,” the soft-spoken Kelly said of his college decision. “I felt like it was the right fit for me.”

Neal said Newberry is getting a well-rounded individual and football player in Kelly who, the Bulldog boss said, can thrive in his new surroundings.

“Everybody here likes Tyrone and they like being around him,” Neal said.

“I think Newberry is a really good fit for him. I think the small-school atmosphere is really going to be good for him and the benefits he is going to get from the smaller classrooms and the tutoring there will be major pluses for Tyrone.”

Kelly’s signing made him the fourth Camden football player in the past two seasons to sign with the Wolves. Neal said that is a credit to the hard work which the Newberry program and assistant coach and former Kershaw County resident and coach Stephen Flynn have put in both evaluating and recruiting Bulldog players.

“Newberry has come to Camden a lot and they have done a good job of recruiting our guys,” Neal said of head coach Todd Knight’s program.

Kelly’s signing comes after he turned heads starting in his junior campaign.

After having made just one tackle for the Bulldogs as a sophomore, that coming behind the line of scrimmage, Kelly blossomed into a leader along the defensive front in 2014. His five quarterback sacks, 13 tackles for loss of yardage and 10 quarterback pressures all led the team which played their way into the state AAA playoffs. His 60 tackles were sixth on the team while his 46 solo hits ranked him fifth. He also had a six-yard scoop and score of a fumble in that year’s season opener against Lugoff-Elgin.

Coming into last season, Kelly was a known commodity and he earned All-Region 4-AAA honors following a 2015 campaign in which he led CHS in sacks (five), tackles for loss (15), quarterback pressures (three), passes broken up (4), fumbles caused (two) and fumbles recovered (two). His 66 tackles were good for fourth on the defense while he was third on that side of the football with 52 solo stops.

Neal said as Kelly grew into his lengthy frame and learned where he was supposed to be on the field, things starting clicking for the newest Newberry Wolf.

“Tyrone became more physical,” Neal said of the key to Kelly’s development. “As a freshman and sophomore, he was talented but you just weren’t very sure if he was going to become a good football player, or not. By his junior year, the light turned on for him and everything started going well for him.

“He has everything going for him. He has good athleticism. He has a big trunk and he has power in his legs and hips. And his upper body is going to catch up before too long. When all that happens, I think that he is going to have a very good career at Newberry.”

Kelly, who also started at center for Camden’s state playoff basketball team this past season, shed 10 pounds and played at 240 pounds this winter. He said he expects to pack on more pounds and muscle now that his playing days on the hardwood are behind him.

“They didn’t really say how much they wanted me to weigh,” Kelly said when asked how much he would like to weigh in college while not slowing him down or, impeding his quickness. “But I do believe they will want me to come in heavier than I am now. I think if I can get to 260 (pounds) that would be good.

“I have confidence in myself. I think I will do pretty well. I adapt well to different things which, I think, will help me in college.”

While he wants to get heavier, Kelly knows the people he will be going up against on the other side of the football will be larger, as well. That, he said, comes with the territory in making the jump from high school to college football.

“In high school, not all the players were big,” he said. “In college, they are going to be bigger, faster and stronger. I’m just going to have to adjust to that. 

“I’m going to have to get stronger. In high school, not all the linemen were big so I’m going to have to get used to that.”

Kelly received a taste of what college football will be like in having played in the Shrine Bowl. In both practices and the game itself, he went up against larger linemen and more than held his own. Kelly said his week with the Shrine Bowl team and facing the best players in the state taught him several more lessons as to how to play the game.

“I learned that it’s not all about using your speed and that you have to have the right technique,” he said of his Shrine Bowl experience.

During the course of the week of practice in Spartanburg, in preparation for the Shrine Bowl game itself, 24/7sports.com writer Barton Simmons had the chance to see Kelly in the flesh and came away impressed enough that he called Kelly one of his “sleepers” from the two squads.

“Tyrone Kelly, out of Camden High School for South Carolina, was one of the most active and physical defenders for either team,” Simmons said in his story. “Listed at 6-4, 245 pounds, Kelly has some versatility to play in several spots along the line of scrimmage.”

Neal agreed with Simmons’ assessment of Kelly, especially the part about the former Bulldog being able to play more than one position on the line. With a large frame which is still filling out, the CHS head coach and former assistant at Furman University said Kelly will provide the Newberry staff with several playing options. When CHS started losing players along the front line last fall, defensive linemen practiced on the offensive front. With long arms and quick feet, Neal said you cannot rule out a switch to offense as a possibility for Kelly. 

“There’s a good chance, as big as Tyrone’s getting and he’s still growing, that he can become a three-technique and could become an inside guy,” Neal said. “He could possible stay as a defensive end but his best position may be as a left offensive tackle. And, you never know, but it could give him an opportunity to go to the next level.”

Kelly is counting on staying at defensive end and has not been told otherwise by the Newberry coaches who have told him where and how quickly he gets on the field is up to him. “They told me as long as I come up there and work hard that I can do well up there,” he said.

As a defensive end, Kelly said he patterns his game after recently retired NFL defensive end Justin Tuck. As for being a tall and athletic defensive end at Camden, he drew obvious comparisons to former Bulldog standout Vonnie Holliday, who played 15 NFL seasons before retiring three years ago. Kelly said he never thought about people looking to him as the second coming of the ever-popular Holliday.

“I heard some of it but I never paid too much attention to it,” Kelly said. “I just listened to my coaches and did what they told me to do.”

The last sentence is something which Neal talked about when describing Kelly, who earned the respect and admiration of the Camden coaching staff over the course of his four years in the program. Neal said doing things the right way will help Tyrone Kelly to have a productive college career.

“Tyrone is a great guy and a hard worker. He’s a pleaser … he wants to please the coaches and does what the coaches ask him to do,” Neal said. “He works hard on the things that don’t necessarily come natural in football. He’s is a very unselfish guy; sometimes, defensive ends want to run upfield and try and get the sack. Tyrone would squeeze blocks, blow things up and make things happen.”

“He is an easy guy to coach who has shown a tremendous amount of improvement over the past four years. We’re all very proud of him and very excited for him.”

 

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