Charlene Kelly knew the moment it happened her son, Chad, had torn the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. She was watching Clemson’s Spring Game from the family’s home in Niagara Falls and the way Chad planted his left foot, she knew something was amiss.
“It’s mother’s instinct, it’s weird,” she said. “Real weird.”
The play called for the redshirt freshman to run an option, something he’s done a zillion times, and he took off. He juked the Clemson defense a couple of times but after completing a 17-yard gain, his knee buckled inside. The former St. Joe’s quarterback and the nephew of Buffalo Bills Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly will spend the summer rehabilitating in hopes of returning by the time Clemson begins Atlantic Coast Conference play. Kelly was to undergo surgery at 7:30 this morning.
“He’s got a very positive attitude about it all, and he’s in a good place,” said Charlene, who flew to South Carolina on Thursday for the surgery. “You have to trust that things happen for a reason and that God has a plan. Sometimes you don’t know what it is and often times things turn out to be blessings in disguise and of course we’re still wondering what that is. But he has a positive attitude.”
The surgery will be performed by Dr. Larry Bowman, Clemson’s orthopedic surgeon, who has conducted more than 1,000 ACL surgeries. Bowman is close friends with renowned surgeon Dr. James Andrews, who has repaired many damaged ligaments.
“The fastest anyone has ever healed from an ACL injury from an athletic standpoint to actually be able to compete was four months but reality is more six-eight,” said Kevin Kelly, Chad’s father. “The coaches are really wanting him to play this season and we’re hoping he’s going to be back by the middle of the season.”
Kelly seems more ambitious about a speedy recovery, tweeting last week, “Ran 2 Laps Around The Field! Nothing But Progress, Getting Surgery Next Week But I Know I Will Be Back By The First Game! PutItInGodsHands.”
On April 16 Chad wrote: “137 Days Till The First Game. You Best Believe Im Going To Do Whatever It Takes To Get Back On The Field. No One Will Ever Out Work On Me.”
Kevin said his son could be walking and jogging as early as Saturday.
“As of now, things are looking real good and his leg is as strong as ever,” he said. “It’s a common procedure for athletes nowadays and hopefully my son will recover just as well as the majority of them.”
Kelly weighs 210 pounds and the coaches want him to gain at least three more pounds to be able to take the punishment of a read option quarterback. Kelly was unavailable for comment because Clemson doesn’t allow freshmen to do interviews until they play in a game. The way he played this spring, Kelly would have been talking soon.
Kelly and junior Cole Stoudt were competing for the backup job behind All-American Tajh Boyd.
Playing for the Orange team in the spring game, Kelly drove his team 70 yards in 10 plays for the first touchdown of the game. He completed 6 of 7 passes for 43 yards, rushed twice for 14 yards and capped the drive with a 16-yard TD pass to Charone Peake. Kelly’s father and all his uncles – Jim, Ray, Pat and Danny – went nuts. Kelly had the Orange on the move again when his knee crumbled.
“He was there to impress some people,” Kevin said. “For the 10 or 12 plays that he was actually in, every one of them pretty much went for a positive gain. He was showing he was ready and then that happens.”
Kelly later Tweeted: “I Wish So Bad I Could Have Played In The Whole Spring Game To Prove MySelf. This Honestly Sucks.”
Clemson coach Dabo Swinney sat Boyd for the game to better evaluate Kelly and Stoudt. Now the Tigers are down to two scholarship players behind center.
“Chad was so fired up to play in this game and compete,” Swinney said after the game. “He had a great start on the first drive. He is going to work hard and come back. It is in his DNA. I heard Jim Kelly speak recently and he was told his arm was through because of injury. But he came back and ended in the Hall of Fame. He will overcome it and come back. He could help us late this coming season. Look what Adrian Peterson did for the Minnesota Vikings this year after suffering a torn ACL.”
Kelly’s initial reaction was disappointment.
Then he realized how many NFL players had recovered from the injury.
“Its Been Less Than 48Hrs Since My Injury, Today You Best Believe I Worked Out Still,” Kelly wrote. “This Injury Isn’t Stopping Me Not One Bit.”
A picture on Kelly’s Twitter page has Clemson’s 2013 schedule which includes a date Oct. 5 at Syracuse University. Syracuse was one of the finalists for Kelly during an intense recruiting battle. It’s a nice target date for Kelly’s return.
“God Always Has A Plan,” Kelly wrote recently. “But Theres’ Always Obstacles We Have To Over Come, While We Have To Keep Focused On The Bigger Prize.”