It was late in the fourth quarter of a blowout win for Kamiak High School’s sophomore football team. I was the starting quarterback, but had just been taken out of the game to give our backup some playing time (this game was his only time at quarterback that year). On first down, our coach called a simple passing play – quick slants. Our quarterback took the snap… dropped back… and panicked. He handed the ball to his running back, Bryson Kelly.
Kelly was looking for someone to block, but found himself holding the ball in a congested backfield on what was supposed to be a passing play. He looked confused for a split second, then frantically dashed around the right side of the line, smashing through a linebacker’s attempt to tackle him, before dragging a cornerback and safety on his back for five yards and a first down. Though he was probably only 160 pounds, Bryson was the heart of the team, and we relied heavily on his “be the hammer, not the nail” running style on offense. When it came down to football, it didn’t matter if it was practice, it didn’t matter if we were in a close game, didn’t matter if we were up or down by twenty, Bryson was always locked in, ready to go, and ready to prove that he was the toughest guy on the field.
Bryson’s father, Harold, was a huge influence on Bryson’s development as a player. Our freshman team was loaded with good athletes, and Bryson didn’t start. However, like his father (who exercised at the YMCA I frequented growing up), Bryson became a workout machine. When I first met Bryson in elementary school and middle school, he was a lean, thoroughbred of an athlete. This changed in high school. He was among the leaders on the football team every year in offseason workout attendance, and his work ethic began to pay dividends. He played almost exclusively for the sophomore team as a sophomore, before breaking into the varsity team as a junior.
As a senior 210 pound running back, Kelly was our best offensive player, leading the team to an 8-1 record before losing in the state playoffs 13-7. He did so despite not having the support of a consistent passing game to keep defenses honest, and lead the team in rushing yards, rushing touchdowns, and carries (he has the school record for most carries in a season).
Bryson played two years for Santa Ana Community College before transferring to Division II Central Washington University for his junior and senior seasons in college. As a senior in 2010, Kelly lead the team in rushing yards per game with 105 yards, and touchdowns, with 10.
At his pro day this spring, Kelly bench pressed 225 pounds 26 times, which when put in comparison to other running backs in the combine, would rank him fifth best of all running backs that were eligible for the draft this year.
Today, he was signed by the Oakland Raiders and is trying to make their roster. He’s listed at 235 pounds.
It’s feels cool that I know someone who is playing for an NFL team. What’s cooler is seeing someone I always had a great deal of respect for decide to work harder than anyone else and get rewarded. Bryson Kelly wasn’t the best running back in our conference in high school (another running back from a rival high school committed to the University of Washington), and he wasn’t highly recruited. He wasn’t the biggest running back, nor was he the fastest, but he’s one of the few that have a shot in the NFL. He is a refreshing example of hard work paying off.
Congrats Bryson. You deserve your shot. Best of luck to you.
Here’s a link to his highlight tape from last year
About the Author
Written by Erik Olsoy
Erik was born in Columbus, Ohio during the only Ohio State football victory over Michigan in the 1980s, but moved to Washington state and grew up there. His loyalty to Ohio State remains strong, but his strongest allegiances developed toward Seattle sports. Though he recently graduated from Boston College, he has not yet been converted to the ways of New England Sportsdom, and only roots for the Red Sox against the Yankees because the Yankees are the root of all evil.