EMU's Greg Kelley, wrongfully convicted, imprisoned football star, set to transfer

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

The wild journey of Greg Kelley, once a highly recruited high school football star before he spent more than 1,000 days in prison for a sex crime for which he later was fully exonerated, is adding another chapter.

Kelley, who signed last year to play football at Eastern Michigan, entered the transfer portal earlier this week.

It appears he will end his Eastern Michigan career before playing a single game. He practiced with the team in 2020, but didn't see action in the shortened 2020 season because of a groin injury.

Greg Kelley.

Kelley, 26, was officially part of the Eastern Michigan's 2021 signing class, and played in the Eagles' spring game April 16, recording an interception. But Kelley and wife Gaebri recently decided they wanted to move closer to home in Texas. He is going to explore smaller-school options, Eastern Michigan head coach Chris Creighton said.

"He is an awesome young man," Creighton told The News on Tuesday.

"Good things will happen for him."

A 6-foot-2, 215-pound safety, Eastern Michigan offered Kelley a scholarship in September, less than a year after he was fully exonerated after having been convicted of sexually molesting a young boy in a case that drew headlines across the nation. His story was the subject of the hit Showtime documentary, "Outcry," which Eastern Michigan officials watched before signing off on the scholarship offer.

Kelley hasn't played a football game since his junior year of high school in Leander, Texas, in 2013. He was arrested the summer before his senior year, and eventually was convicted and sentenced to up 25 years in prison without the chance of parole or appeal. Several tireless advocates took up his case, and, amid some recanted testimony and allegations of shoddy police work, on Nov. 6, 2019, his conviction was overturned, and on Nov. 26, 2019, he was granted a complete exoneration.

He was compensated more than a half-million dollars for his wrongful conviction, as well as free college, but he still was on scholarship at Eastern Michigan.

"We think society did him wrong," Creighton told The News last fall. "But that's not the reason we gave him a scholarship. This was not a situation where we felt sorry for him.

"We think he's going to be a really good player."

Before his arrest, Kelley was committed to playing college ball at Texas-San Antonio.

That commitment eventually landed him at Eastern Michigan, where Neal Neathery is defensive coordinator. Neathery recruited Kelley to UTSA, as its defensive coordinator. Eastern Michigan wasn't sure what to expect from him on the field, given he hadn't played in years, but the potential was there to make an impact, coaches agreed.

Kelley didn't return a message from The News on Tuesday.

In the fall, after signing with Eastern Michigan, Kelley told The News, "I feel like I'm a 19-year-old kid again."

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Twitter: @tonypaul1984