John Kelly, Mutual Decision, or Forced Exit?
John Kelly was one of the only bright spots from our beloved Tennessee football team last year. With his grit, gut and grind, he pulled our team through the hardest and toughest season ever to be a
Tennessee fan or player. He made all of us proud. Moments when you though he had nothing left he could always dig an extra ounce out for his pride and the T. There isn't a bad thing to be said about this man, and it seemed as soon as we hired Pruitt it seemed him staying would be a lock, and he would be a key cornerstone to gap to the future between the old regime and the new. Sadly tho, John Kelly decided to leave his beloved University and take his talents to the NFL. And if I'm being honest he couldn't of made a better decision. He will fit in like a glove at the high powered offense lead by Todd Gurley, and head coach Sean McVay. He will be the relief Gurley needs, and having someone like Gurley will help keep Kelly healthy. I for see a very successful NFL career for John Kelly, but that's for another article at another time.
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As I said before it was almost a shock to hear John Kelly was leaving after this past year. Only rushing for 778 yards and 9 touchdowns are not the kind of numbers that go high in the NFL draft. Comparatively Rashaad Penny from SDSU lead the NCAA with 2027 yards, and the number one back taken, Saquon Barkley, rushed for 1134 yards ranking him 33rd overall. It's safe to say John Kelly fell well below the 33rd rank, and we will leave it at that.
So with a new coach who was sure to get more out of his players, produce a more consistent offense that would surely prepare players better for the NFL, why would he leave? Bad blood? Something to do with the weed related charge, and maybe some off field issues? I'll answer those first. No and No. John Kelly, despite one incident, was a model student athlete, and if I have to be honest for a second, if I had to hear Butch Jones try to motivate me every day I might feel the need to take a toke of the ol' Texas Tea as well. His cliches from a fans perspective were enough for a life time.
It's funny, without even realizing it, John Kelly has more in common with Alvin Kamara than we see at first glance. I'm not referring to their personality, or physical appearance. It goes a bit deeper than that.
Both these men were staples in an era of inconsistency. They are two players we can hang our hats on despite all the drama of the Butch Jones era. Both players at one point ended up in a system that they were not fit/going to be fit for. Some people tend to forget before Kamara chose Tennessee he picked Alabama. And if you go and read some of the message boards Alabama fans don't have to many kind things to say about Kamara and his departure. Kamara would of never been the type of back that "fit" in at Alabama, just like John Kelly would of only hurt himself by staying here putting him in a similar situation as Kamara at Alabama.
John Kelly is not a big back, and placing him in a system like Pruitts there is a chance he might not of fit in well, injured himself, or hurt his draft stock further. Kelly had nothing to gain by staying and everything to lose by doing so, and I'm sure he and Pruitt both agreed. Pruitt is the kind of coach that will put players in the NFL. You know Pruitt would love to have Kelly, but I think they both have to do what's best for Kelly.
He put his work in, put the world on his shoulders, and even more. Kelly has earned his stripes as a #VolforLife the hard way. He has nothing left to prove... Not at this level. He is NFL bound, and it seems a kid from Detroit, MI is finally getting his dues. He is in the beautiful state of California and his grass, and bank account are looking greener than they ever have before. God bless you John Kelly, and good luck this year in the NFL. We will all be rooting for you.