It's been a difficult run-up to the NFL Draft for former Ole Miss quarterback Chad Kelly, but his college coach believes he can overcome a recent run of tough luck.
Kelly suffered a torn ACL and lateral meniscus in the Rebels' 37-27 win over Georgia Southern on Nov. 5, ending his season with three games remaining.
That injury prevented him from taking part in the Senior Bowl and he didn't receive an invite to the NFL Combine, limiting his chances to impress NFL coaches. Off-the-field issues such as an arrest for disorderly conduct in his hometown of Buffalo and his decision to run onto the field during a high school football game likely played a role in his failure to receive an invite.
When he finally did get a chance to show NFL teams what he was capable of at Ole Miss' pro day, Kelly's session ended after just 12 throws for what he described as a “strained wrist.”
The injury turned out to be more serious than first believed when he was diagnosed with an “acute rupture ligament between two bones in the wrist,” according to USA Today. He underwent surgery and will be prevented from throwing for three months.
With the NFL Draft beginning on Thursday, Kelly will likely have a long wait to find out if a team is willing to give him a shot as a late pick or as a free agent.
Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze is confident that Kelly will get his chance.
“I check in with him frequently,” Freeze said. “He's tough mentally. He's been through a lot obviously. It's well documented some of the things he had to endure because of poor decisions, but then there are some things he had no control over - knee injuries and wrist injuries. I think he's a mentally tough guy and it's only going to make him more tough.
“How that will affect this weekend, I don't know. It's a tough call. Like I tell all our players, it's not draft day you're worried about. It's draft career. You want to build a career. You just want an opportunity. He's going to get that. He's got to get healthy and well, and then when he gets an opportunity to make the most of it.”
Kelly, who was considered a potential first-round pick prior to the injuries and more off-the-field issues, can point to the numbers from his junior year as proof that he can produce at a high level. He threw for 4,042 yards, 31 touchdowns and 13 interceptions in leading the Rebels' to the Sugar Bowl. He also ran 107 times for 500 yards and 10 scores.