High School Sports

Coast football star makes his college pick, but then picks up his biggest offer yet

Ocean Springs running back Micah Kelly (3) runs with the ball against St. Martin on Oct. 10, 2018, at St. Martin. Kelly has verbally committed to Toledo.
Ocean Springs running back Micah Kelly (3) runs with the ball against St. Martin on Oct. 10, 2018, at St. Martin. Kelly has verbally committed to Toledo. jcfitzhugh@sunherald.com file

Ocean Springs senior running back Micah Kelly has announced his college choice, and he plans to play football almost 1,000 miles away from his Jackson County home.

Kelly announced on Friday that he plans to sign with Toledo on Feb. 6, but he also picked up an offer from Louisville two hours after revealing his pledge to the Rockets on Twitter.

Kelly received his first FBS offer on Dec. 10 from Western Kentucky, and his list of options continued to grow over the last month. He ended up choosing the Rockets over offers from Colorado State, Akron, Ball State, Arkansas State, WKU, Nicholls, Illinois State, Indiana State and Incarnate Word.

“It was just a better fit for me, overall,” Kelly said. “I feel like I can really thrive there as a player and education-wise.”

Louisville becomes the first school from a Power 5 conference to offer Kelly, who has also talked with coaches at Ole Miss and North Carolina State. New Louisville running backs coach Norval McKenzie made the offer during a Friday phone call.

“Coach McKenzie, he was at Arkansas State recently,” Kelly said. “Arkansas State offered me. He got the job at Louisville and offered me.”

When asked if the new Louisville offer would change his situation with Toledo, he said, “Not really.”

“It really makes this recruiting thing a little more crazy,” he said. “I just committed. It’s weird.”

Kelly said he’s still willing to talk with coaches from other programs “to a certain extent.”

Toledo head coach Jason Candle made the trek to Ocean Springs on Thursday and left a good impression on Kelly, who transferred from Gautier prior to his senior year.

“He came and spent the whole day with me yesterday,” Kelly said. “I went and visited (Toledo) in December, but I still had some questions unanswered. He answered all my questions. Their running back spot has opened up. It really puts me in a good position.

“(Candle) really opened my eyes. He said I’d be a great fit for them. He’s a great coach. He’s the kind of coach I need to play for. I know he’s going look out for me just like I was one of his kids.”

The 5-foot-10, 190-pound Kelly came into his own during his senior year at Ocean Springs, running 263 times for 1,560 yards and 16 touchdowns. He also caught 10 passes for 150 yards and two scores.

Toledo has become one of the most consistent winning programs in the Mid-American Conference, earning a bowl bid in each of the last five seasons.

Kelly believes he’ll be a good fit in an offense that also produced Kareem Hunt, who became a star running back with the Kansas City Chiefs before being released this season due to troubles away from the field.

“Their running backs get the ball a lot,” Kelly said. “The system is something I’m familiar with and I like how they’d utilize me. It’s a really good fit for me. They’re a winning team and they score a bunch of points.”

Kelly knows he’ll be attending college a long way from home and adjusting to much colder weather, but he has his family’s fully support.

“My family is OK with it,” he said. “They always find a way to get wherever I’m at regardless. They’ll do the same.”

With his college decision set, Kelly is grateful to have had several solid options to choose from after being overlooked for much of his high school career.

“It was very rewarding considering how hard I worked in the offseason,” he said. “Coming from Gautier to Ocean Springs, it’s great to see everything work out.”

Patrick Magee is a sports writer who has covered South Mississippi for much of the last two decades. From Southern Miss to high schools, he stays on top of it all.