Editors Note: Here’s part three of our four-part Signing for the Future series featured in the March issue of Bison Illustrated.
The summer camps, the extra reps in the weight room and the additional conditioning has led thousands of promising football players to this day; a day they will forever remember called Signing Day. Whether they’re in front of a gymnasium with their family and classmates cheering them on or in their counselor’s office before class, once a high school student signs his National Letter of Intent, his future is set. But for some, the road to playing college football has more bends and twists than the Red River. Here are four stories of recruits turned Bison football players and their paths that led them to the green and gold.
By Joe Kerlin
The Long Road to Success
When Jeremy Kelly was going through the recruiting process as a senior in high school, attending a Division II University in the small town of Crookston, Minn., was on the short list of schools he was most likely to attend.
Kelly was a highly sought after offensive line recruit that was getting looks from nearly every school in the Missouri Valley Football Conference and a couple FBS programs.
When it came time for Kelly to make his decision, he accepted a scholarship to play for the Air Force Academy.
Attending a military school is unlike any other college football experience in the country, said Kelly.
Kelly reported to the Air Force prep school like any other incoming recruit for a shortened “boot camp” for three and a half weeks. From there, the Air Force would redshirt Kelly for a season to use all five years of his eligibility. Then the Air Force would require five more years of military service out of Kelly after graduation.
After prep school, Kelly decided the Air Force wasn’t for him, which created another issue for the 6-foot 6-inch offensive tackle out of Somerset, Wis.
“I decided to leave and by that time it was a week or so before camp had started for all the schools,” Kelly said. “And by that time all the schools had their scholarships filled-up and everything.”
Kelly began reaching out to every school that showed him interest during his senior season, to see if any school out there had any scholarship money left. Minnesota-Crookston answered the bell and was able to offer Kelly a partial scholarship.
Kelly had two successful seasons in Crookston, where he started at right tackle and was a two-time all-Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference honorable mention.
As Kelly enjoyed individual success at Crookston, he yearned to play at the level he was originally recruited to play.
“I wanted to end my career better than that because how much football meant to me,” Kelly said. “I just wanted to be a part of something great and work my butt off. Hopefully, if I can play, great; but at least I know I can finish off my college career being a part of something great with this program and team.”
Kelly said the success ultimately drew him to NDSU, and in 2013 he transferred.
His career came full-circle during this season’s championship game when Kelly started at right tackle against the team that first offered him a scholarship out of high school – Illinois State.
Even though Kelly admits he almost committed to Illinois State out of high school, he’s glad his college football journey has brought him to the Bison football family.
“I came in with the freshmen, but I wasn’t really with the juniors that had been here the whole time,” Kelly said, explaining the challenges of a transfer student-athlete. “But they accepted me as part of the family and that’s how it would be with any recruit coming in here. All the hard work pays off. You can see for yourself in what we’ve done here in the past years and the history. It’s all worth it.”