The lone remaining member of former coach Chan Gailey’s staff, Georgia Tech secondary coach Charles Kelly is in his seventh year at Tech. It is a fitting destination, in a way. His grandfather was a big fan of Bobby Dodd. His father, a high school coach, attended coaching clinics at Tech (among other places).
In the second “10 things” installment, read up on Kelly.
1. Kelly knew from a young age he wanted to get into coaching due to his father’s influence. (I know that Al Groh and Brian Bohannon’s fathers, and possibly others on the staff, were also high school coaches.) Kelly said he dreamed more about coaching than he did playing in the NFL.
“I knew in college,” said Kelly, who walked on at Auburn. “I was around guys that I knew were going to play at that level but that wasn’t for me. But I learned as much about the game as I could.”
Kelly graduated in 1990. Among his teammates were wide receiver Lawyer Tillman, defensive tackle Tracy Rocker and linebacker Aundray Bruce, the first overall pick of the 1988 draft.
2. Kelly, who grew up in Alabama, said he chose Auburn in large part because of coach Pat Dye.
“He was just somebody that you just wanted to play for and be around,” Kelly said. “I thought, at that time, there was no better guy to be under if you wanted to be a coach.”
Dye’s strength, Kelly said, was handling people and molding a team.
“”He was very good at putting a team together, building a team, taking different personalities,” he said. “They weren’t always necessarily the top blue chips. Some guys came there (that) were just hard-nosed guys but he made football players out of them.”
3. Kelly said he’d love to pick the brain of New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick. Kelly called him intriguing.
“From what I’ve seen on the outside, he’s one of those guys that has a profile for guys that he wants and he goes after them no matter what other people might think,” Kelly said. “It might not necessarily be the most popular thing – the guy may not be the most highly rated – but all of the sudden, he takes those guys and he makes a team out of them.”
Incidentally, Kelly works across the hall from someone who has worked several years with Belichick – Groh.
4. Kelly said there are other coaches whom he’d love to be around, including small-college coaches unknown to most.
“I would have liked to have had the opportunity to be around (former Georgia Southern coach) Erk Russell,” he said. “I would have liked that, to see when he was at Georgia Southern, how he started that program. Just some of the stories that I’ve heard from Coach (Paul) Johnson, he would have been an interesting man to be around.”
Before Johnson came to Tech and retained Kelly on his staff, Johnson was another.
“When he was at Georgia Southern, I was just fascinated with how he did what he did,” Kelly said. “It’s just ironic that I wound up coaching with him.”
5. Kelly used to joke around with former Tech quarterback Joshua Nesbitt about playing safety for him. Nesbitt played both ways in high school and is now playing safety for the Buffalo Bills after making the team as an undrafted rookie free agent.
“I’d say, ‘You come over here with me. Let me get you back here at safety a little bit,’” Kelly said. “Good athlete, but more than that, he was a tough guy.”
6. Kelly and his family (wife Kristy and three daughters) are huge Braves fans and go to about 15 games a year, watch at home and keep track of games if they’re out.
“I kid people all the time. They say they’re Braves fans, I say, ‘O.K., well, give me the starting lineup of the ’84 team,” Kelly said. “I want to find out if you really, really are a Braves fan or if you’re just jumping on and the bandwagon and jumping off.”
7. Kelly said that safety Fred Holton, who returned in the spring from a torn Achilles tendon suffered last August, was ahead of schedule in the spring and improved over the month.
“He’s a good person,” Kelly said. “You like to see a guy that comes back from something like that and is successful. I’m hoping he has a good year.”
While Holton’s strength is his hitting ability, Kelly said that “he was doing some things in the deep field that were impressive to Coach Groh and I both (last August).”
Isaiah Johnson is more adept playing center field. However, Kelly said, “I was watching cut-ups not too long ago and the Miami game, we did a lot of stuff where we were bringing him down and he made some good plays. He’s got to get better at that. That’s one of the things that we worked on (in the spring).”
8. Kelly has never had three cornerbacks at one time who have as much talent and experience as Rod Sweeting, Jemea Thomas and Louis Young. Thomas, he said, has a knack for playmaking that can’t be taught.
“I think you saw that when he was playing in high school,” he said. “Some guys just have that innate ability – just, good athlete, can find the ball, that are explosive, that can tackle, do it all.”
9. A goal of Kelly’s this summer is to spend time with his three girls. One’s a gymnast, another is into music and drama and “hopefully my baby girl, we can get her swimming by the end of the summer.”
Another goal of his had been to run in the AJC Peachtree Road Race, which he’s never done. Kelly, however, didn’t get a number through the lottery.
10. He has also been re-acquainting himself with Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas, whom Tech will face Labor Day night in Blacksburg. Thomas, you may recall, had a bit of a field day against the Jacket last November – 209 passing yards on 13 attempts, 18 rushes for 70 yards, accounted for five touchdowns passing or running.
“It’s something that we’ve already started watching video,” Kelly said. “But, yeah, I’ll spend a good bit of time on that this summer.”
Also, 10 things you didn’t know about Al Groh. Thanks for reading.
Ken Sugiura, Georgia Tech blog