The Detroit News is counting down the top 15 players on its list of Blue Chip football recruits. Today: No. 6 John Kelly of Oak Park.
John Kelly was an impact player on both sides of the ball during his senior year at Oak Park, a reason he was recruited by Michigan State as a defensive back and by Tennessee as a running back.
In the end, Kelly wanted to play running back in college and accepted the offer from Tennessee coach Butch Jones to play in the SEC for the Volunteers.
Kelly rushed for 1,312 yards, averaging nearly 10 yards every time he touched the ball, and scored 25 TD. He was also a threat on special teams.
Sure, opponents could load the box to slow him down, but usually Kelly would break loose for a long TD run. That was the case in a season-opening loss to Detroit Cass Tech, when he had a 61-yard TD run and a 53-yard TD off a screen pass. He accounted for 217 total yards in that game, including 141 rushing on 25 carries. Kelly also had a 47-yard TD run in a win over Farmington Hills Harrison and an 87-yard kickoff return in a victory over Royal Oak.
"I liked Michigan State," Kelly said. "One of my best recruiting moments was when I went to their game against Nebraska. It was my birthday and they all treated me great. But I wasn't leaning toward playing defensive back and that's what they offered me to play.
"I wanted to play running back and their (Volunteers) running back spot needs some help. It's an amazing campus at Tennessee and I just really had a good vibe about it."
Kelly was considering MSU, Minnesota and Michigan prior to his visit to Knoxville Jan. 16. He made the road trip with his mother, a member of Oak Park's coaching staff, and his Little League coach. He plans to major in broadcasting at Tennessee.
Oak Park coach Greg Carter said Kelly was mature with the recruiting process, taking his time before making his final decision, just a couple of weeks before the Feb. 4 National Signing Day.
Carter has been around for a long time, guiding Detroit De Porres to several state championships, including his first one 20 years ago. He called Kelly one of the best players he has coached, describing him as "explosive with a great combination of speed and strength."
Kelly, 5-foot-11 and 190 pounds, has been timed at 4.38 seconds in the 40. This season he returned one punt for a TD and two kickoffs for scores, and made 39 tackles from his defensive back spot.
Now Kelly plans to use that speed to show why Jones recruited him hard during the holidays before bringing him in to Knoxville to close the deal.
DETROIT NEWS BLUE CHIP COUNTDOWN
No. 6 John Kelly, RB, Oak Park (Tennessee)
No. 7 Kyonta Stallworth, OL, Detroit King (Michigan State)
No. 8. Tyson Smith, DB, Orchard Lake St. Mary's (Michigan State)
No. 9 Tyriq Thompson, LB Detroit King (Michigan State)
No. 10 Grant Perry, WR, Birmingham Brother Rice (Northwestern)
No. 11 Dior Johnson, S, Southfield (Wake Forest)
No. 12 Alex Grace, LB, Saginaw Swan Valley (Western Michigan)
No. 13 John Keenoy, OL, East Kentwood (Western Michigan)
No. 14 Cole Chewins, TE, Clarkston (Michigan State)
No. 15 Mike Danna, DE, Warren De La Salle (Central Michigan)