Normally a 36 point win over a cross town rival is cause for celebration when you are in high school. But for then Buena standout Darius Kelly, it was a night that did not end with joy.
Kelly was still in the game for the Colts playing defense and returning kicks in a blowout against Flowing Wells back in 2010. Despite the deficit for Flowing Wells being out of reach with little time remaining, the senior, who already returned one for a score in the game went back to receive another. On the return, Kelly was about to hit pay dirt once again when he was grabbed by his horse collar short of the goal line and thrown to the ground. When taking the fall, Kelly who had multiple division I scholarship offers, broke his arm.
“During that time, it was really devastating,” said Kelly. “But I had people in my corner, backing me up and pushing me along the way. It was probably one of the toughest times in my life time and my career. Having to stop football right there.”
Playing football at the next level had long been a dream for Kelly and after sustaining the injury, some offers starting to slip away. It was a dream he shared with his older brother, Bryan Briggs. For Kelly, this adversity of breaking his arm was a set back but the adversity his older brother had to face was career ending.
Kelly explained that Briggs was forced to have surgery on his brain to deal with a sinus issue and because of it, could no longer play after having a short career playing linebacker and safety at Catawba College. Kelly’s motivation to get back and play at the next level grew not just to achieve something he had always wanted, but also for his brother.
“My bother, his career was cut short,” Kelly explained. “He has been one of the biggest inspirations in my life and talking to him every day kept me going. I still call him every day and when hard days come along, he is there to tell me ‘just keep going, keep your faith and keep fighting.'”
“My brother has been my biggest inspiration for as long as I can remember,” he added.
After sitting out the rest of his senior season at Buena, Kelly chose to go down the road and play for Pima Community College in Tucson. After a standout freshman season, it appeared that Kelly was going to head to Marshall University in West Virginia but then another school from even further away popped in to take a look. That was Syracuse.
Kelly ultimately committed to play for the Orange.
“I was definitely shocked when Syracuse came all the way to Pima Community College,” mentioned Kelly. “That’ just how God works things, comes from different angles and sends me to the other end of the country. I think it worked out for me for the best.”
He played all 13 games his junior and started all 12 at safety his senior season totaling 105 tackles and an interception in his career with the Orange in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
For Kelly, life has taken him down roads he probably never thought he would go down but it has ultimately brought him back to Arizona where he is training to make an NFL roster whether via the draft or post draft as a free agent.
“I am living the dream right now,” he stated. “This is all you can think about when you are a little kid. Training for the NFL, fighting for a roster spot, I am living the dream. I’m just trying to fight through it as best I can, going hard with this training and hoping it all works out.”
On April 7th, Kelly was back in Syracuse for the Orange’s 2015 Pro Day. He stood out with 23 reps on the bench, a 35.5 vertical, one clock had him running a 4.47 40 yard dash time and a 9’10” broad jump. Kelly was also said to have done great in his position drills as well.
“I’ve just got to focus on the little things,” Kelly said. “People tell me to control what you can. You can’t control getting cut from a team but you can control going hard and getting better every day.”