Nick Kelly has played hurt, and he’s played inspired.
The Arizona State center once labored through a sore hand for several practices at Casa Roble High School, soldiering on because he didn’t want to disappoint teammates and coach Norm Ryan. When Kelly’s mitt swelled like a balloon, X-rays showed it had been badly broken, and he had surgery.
Kelly had one college offer, from Division II Humboldt State. He wound up at American River College, where he improved his stock under coach Jon Osterhout. Now preparing for his senior season with the Sun Devils, Kelly remains the definition of perseverance and grit.
Here’s tough: Kelly played last season despite a torn meniscus in each knee. He labored through the Sun Bowl with torn ligaments in his ankle. And his hands? He regularly popped dislocated fingers back into place, in the huddle, between plays.
“(Kelly) played five or six games last year that most people wouldn’t play,” ASU coach Todd Graham told beat reporters this week. “As a matter of fact, I don’t know if they even would recommend that you play.”
Kelly played anyway, and he vows to survive this season. A second-team All-Pacific-12 Conference player last fall, the 6-foot-3, 300-pound Kelly has been named to the watch list for the Outland Trophy, which honors the top interior lineman in the country, and the Rimington Trophy, which recognizes the top center.
He’s already on the NFL radar. Ryan said Friday that he is filling out NFL draft questionnaires on Kelly, who grew up defending his turf. He had two older brothers, Brendan and Andrew, who tried to pulp him. Their mother, Patty, once presented each with boxing gloves at Christmas.
Last week, sans gloves or pain, Kelly helped carry legendary ASU coach Frank Kush off the field after practice.
Moore has versatility – Stephen Moore (Elk Grove) provides versatility on Cal’s offensive line, playing left or right tackle. He has started 23 consecutive games, blocking for one of the Pac-12’s top quarterbacks, Jared Goff.
Heath could start – Zach Heath (Del Oro, ARC) is competing for a starting job on Illinois’ offensive line. The nation’s top-rated community college center at ARC, the 6-4, 300-pound Heath could wind up at guard. His brothers played college football, Jason on the offensive line at UNLV (2008-11) and Brian at tight end for Sacramento State (2006-09). Heath plays in honor of his father, Wilbur , who died last fall of cancer.
Andrews update – Gavin Andrews (Granite Bay) is off to a painfully slow start at Oregon State’s camp. The 6-6, 330-pound senior guard, a returning starter, has a broken foot. He is contemplating a redshirt season.
Shaq attack – Shaq Thompson (Grant), the Carolina Panthers’ first-round draft pick this year, has been slowed by a hamstring strain at training camp. But the linebacker has otherwise impressed with his speed and instincts.
Thompson said his days at running back are over, never mind his sparkling prep career and some electrifying moments at tailback at Washington.
“It’s different to get hit. I’ll tell you that,” he said. “I got hit a couple times, and I’m like, ‘Geez.’ I know what side I want to play.’”
Arbet pursues title – Darren Arbet, a former Sac State player and assistant coach, has coached the San Jose SaberCats to an 18-1 record, tops in the Arena Footbal League this season.
San Jose plays Arizona in the National Conference title game on Saturday night at Stockton Arena. San Jose’s home facility was previously booked for a circus.
Arbet won AFL titles as the SaberCats’ coach in 2002, 2004 and 2007.
Next generation – Matt Myers, a 1993 Bee All-Metro baseball player for El Camino who played at Sacramento City College and Sac State, is helping coach his son in the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa. Carson Myers is a slugging first baseman for the Bowling Green East All-Stars, winners of the Kentucky state championship. Myers was the head coach at Western Kentucky the last four seasons, going 106-118. He was bought out of the final year of his contract for 2016.