By Michael Kinney
Jordan Kelly makes no bones about it. The Tulsa Union defensive tackle admits that his passion for football stems from being able to hit an opposing player as hard as possible and be lauded for it.
It’s a mindset many have tried to usher out of football players the past few years, but one Kelly has fed off of to become one of the top players in the nation.
“I just see it as like a stress reliever,” Kelly said. “I love the sport of football, but I just like hitting people a lot, keep it honest. I just sometimes want to get on the field and just hit the mess out of somebody just for the fun of it.”
At 6-foot-4, 300-pounds, when Kelly hits someone, they undoubtedly feel it. And because of the aggressive nature he plays with, he has been able to rack of a nice list of big hits.
However, there is one hit that stands out from the rest for Kelly.
“it was my junior year. They tried to do this little play where the ball was a direct snap to like a running back hiding behind the lineman,” Kelly said. “Me and my teammate, Lee Barnes, he picked it out and then I split my gap. He came right at me. I just threw him about five years and we just swirled like three times. It was pretty cool.”
When Kelly is able to create a collision like that, he savors the moment then tries to make it happen again.
“It just felt amazing, you know. To get a big hit in a big game is pretty fun,” Kelly said. “I also had something similar to that. I had two good hits against the two different quarterbacks in a Broken Arrow game on ESPN live, so it was pretty cool.”
In a 48-0 win over Southmoore this season, coach Jeremy Stark could only sit and watch as Kelly decimated his offensive line.
“First of all he is a big athlete,” Stark said. “He is very physical. I don’t think we ever blocked him on the line of scrimmage all night. He was three, four, five yards in our backfield all night. Just creating havoc.”
The Redskins finished the 2017 regular season undefeated at 10-0 and went for the program’s 10th state championship before losing in the finals to Owasso. While everyone said Union would have an easy time repeating as champions, Kelly knew it was going to be tougher due to the amount of talent they lost.
“I knew we were losing a lot of key players like Tre Brown and Shamari Brooks and Kyrie,” Kelly said. “I didn’t know if we had the people to take over for them, and a lot of people stepped up their summer and we all worked out together, and it all seemed to work out.”
In the last two years, three players from Union have signed or committed to the Sooners. They include Kelly and Patrick Fields (2018) and Brown (2017).
“We’ve seen him increase his speed and strength, but a lot of that’s work ethic,” Union coach Kirk Fridrich told The Oklahoman. “As a ninth-grader, when you’re that big, you don’t have to play as hard as you think you should. To me, that’s where we’ve seen the biggest growth.”
The Redskins have become one of the high school programs recruiters flock to in order to snag players who can handle the big-time college atmosphere.
“We’re a dominant program because of how hard we practice and how hard we push each other to work,” Kelly said. “Nobody in the state or probably surrounding states practice as hard as we do. We have tremendously hard practices. We condition midway through practice, after practice. We do all that stuff, and I think that’s why we’re so good because we go through all that stuff and then by the game time we’re just ready. There’s no switch that needs to be turned on because we’ve had that switch turned on all week at practice, so we’re already there.”
Kelly showed that type of determination to improve during the off- season. He knew the areas he needed to work on and attacked them like he does ball carriers.
“I worked a lot of my pass rush, and I had to get my weight right,” Kelly said. “I know last year my pass rush wasn’t good enough, so I started working out with this guy and he got me to where I needed to be. We worked all summer, and I think I’m there now. I’m getting a lot more pressure on the quarterback now. My technique is a lot better.”
Even before Kelly’s ability to get after quarterbacks rivaled his skill at stopping the run, he was becoming a highly sought-after recruit.
“It all started when coach Fred, my head coach, pulled me over. He just told me, “You know how big you are?” He was joking around, and then he got serious,” Kelly said. “He was like, “You can really go play at the next level.” We just started talking back and forth. I didn’t really realize it until I started working hard my junior year and I got my first offer from TU, and that’s when I realized everything was starting to come together.”
It was also seeing the attention some of his fellow teammates had been getting from schools that pushed him to become a better player.
“It was pretty crazy to me. I saw all my friends getting offers, and it was weighing on my mind,” Kelly said. “Like CJ (Moore), he had probably had five by that time, and Patrick was starting to really lift off, and I was just the lone wolf. Then I got that first offer, I just got really excited. It makes me want to work harder. When I’m down and I’m having a good practice, I’ll see CJ or Patrick working really hard. It just motivates me to work a little harder, and it really gets me to where I need to be at.”
It didn’t take much longer for Kelly to start to get the same type of offers as Moore and Fields. But he knew all along he was waiting on Oklahoma to make their pitch. And once they did, his pretty much shut down his recruiting process.
“Somewhere around March they offered me,” Kelly said. “I just committed because that’s where I wanted to go this whole time. They were my last offer. It took them awhile to offer me, but they finally did. I talked to the coach. I liked everything there. They were all cool, so I just hung it up, just committed.”
When Oklahoma offered Kelly, Bob Stoops was still the head coach. But when Lincoln Riley became the new man in charge, he was still committed to being a Sooner.
“When I committed, I got a text just about from every coach,” Kelly said. “It was funny because at that time Bob was still the head coach, but Lincoln, we talked quite a bit, and then a couple weeks later I found out that he was going to be my head coach after Bob retired, but it was just crazy. A lot of coaches called me. We all Face-timed. We just had a good time.”
It was that family atmosphere at Oklahoma that Kelly said stood out from the other schools he was looking at.
“I just like how when I went there, the coaches, they just came up to me like they knew me,” Kelly said. “The players would just come and talk to me. Everybody just acted like they knew who I was already. It was easy to come in. They just took me in their hands and it was just crazy from there.”
Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Writer with Eyeamtruth.com
Article first appeared in The Sooner Spectator