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Chad Kelly leaves mark as ‘relentless’ competitor with Ole Miss teammates

Chad Kelly came to Ole Miss with the reputation of being a troublemaker.

His teammates will remember him as a competitor.

Kelly’s brief yet productive career as the Rebels’ quarterback ended abruptly when the senior walked off the field during the third quarter of last week’s game against Georgia Southern with an injury to his right knee. An MRI showed tears to the ACL and lateral meniscus, resulting in the latest and perhaps most frustrating twist in a disappointing season.

“We sit down as a defense (on the sideline) and they kind of surround the huddle with guys, so I didn’t really see until I saw Jason (Pellerin) in the game. I’m like, ‘What’s going on?’” defensive end Fadol Brown said. “They told me Chad left the game. I didn’t know what it was, but they told me he tore his ACL, so I was pretty down when I got home about that.”

Said tight end Evan Engram, “Just wondering why. Why us? Why him?”

Teammates added that with the injuries went one of the most driven players they’ve ever encountered.

“He’s crazy on the field. Just his drive, his competitiveness,” Engram said. “He’s so relentless in wanting to go score. He wants to score every play. He wants the big play every play. The thing I’m going to miss the most is his drive, his dog mentality, his energy and just wanting to be great.”

Kelly leads the Southeastern Conference with 2,758 passing yards this season and ended his career with a school-record 22 consecutive games with a touchdown pass. He accumulated 7,632 yards of offense and accounted for 65 touchdowns in his two seasons with the Rebels and had perhaps his best performance in an Ole Miss uniform on Oct. 29 when he threw for a school-record 465 yards in a loss against Auburn.

But Kelly just wanted enough stats to win, something offensive lineman Javon Patterson vividly recalled.

“Last year, I remember when we played Alabama, we’re down and you hear the (Alabama fight) songs going on, and he tells us, ‘Hey, let’s go. We’ve got to score,’” Patterson said. “Things like that really stick out with Chad.”

Different story

Kelly took an alternate route to Ole Miss with stops first at East Mississippi Community College and Clemson, from where he was dismissed in 2014 for conduct detrimental to the team. Days after signing with Ole Miss that December, Kelly was arrested in his hometown of Buffalo, New York after scuffling with police and pleaded multiple charges down to disorderly conduct.

Kelly didn’t make negative headlines off the field once he signed until he had to be restrained after running onto the field during his brother’s high school game last month, though he said he felt like he needed to try to protect his younger brother, Casey, a quarterback who was on the receiving end of a late hit that ignited a benches-clearing brawl. Kelly wasn’t disciplined.

Kelly’s time at Ole Miss will be remembered differently.

“Chad came here wanting to rewrite his story, and I have witnessed him do that to a large extent,” Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze said. “It is not the ending we wanted. It’s not the last chapter that we wanted to write, but life has a way of doing that. I have watched him, I have been with him daily, and he’s changed for the better.”