Arizona State’s senior center Nick Kelly came into the 2015 season with quite a bit of hype surrounding him. He was named to the Senior Bowl watch list, the Outland Trophy watch list for the nation’s most outstanding interior lineman and the Rimington Trophy watch list for the nation’s top center.
To think, going back to Kelly’s senior year of high school, football was just a hobby and something he did with his friends.
“Going into my senior year, I was just looking forward to playing with my buddies,” Kelly said in an exclusive interview with Sports360AZ. “I was focused on making an All-League Team, an All-Metro Team and was hoping to make an All-Star team. I never thought I would play at the next level because I didn’t have any sort of recruitment going on.”
During his senior season, Kelly was moved from left tackle to center. It proved to be a great move for him on the field. In the world of ‘you are what your stars are,’ Kelly’s recruitment was still silent. That was until Humbolt State in Arcata, CA, which was about six and a half hours north of Kelly’s hometown of Orangevale in Northern California, gave him a scholarship offer.
“I went up to Humbolt,” he recalled. “Liked the school, liked the people. Came back down and signed the papers and committed there. My mom was super excited.”
While his family and friends were excited about Kelly’s full ride, he had a gut feeling that it wasn’t the right fit.
“I just had a gut feeling that I could do better,” Kelly explained. “So I trusted my gut and called my coach and said I had to de-commit. That was one of the hardest phone calls I ever had to make.”
“I had people telling me ‘What are you doing? You gave away free money, free education,'” he added.
Kelly instead attended American River College out of high school and was teammates at the time with another Pac-12 standout, Utah running back Devontae Booker. Right when he arrived for JUCO ball in Sacramento, his recruitment already began to pick up as he picked up offers from Wyoming and then Nevada-Reno.
“The way I got recruited by ASU, they were recruiting our right tackle who ended up going to Fresno State,” Kelly stated. “I got introduced to ASU coaches and they at first acted uninterested but indulged me and said ‘yeah ok, just send me your film and we’ll call you.'”
“I was on the trip to the University of Nevada-Reno, UNR,” he mentioned. “And I get a call as I was about to meet the head coach at UNR and it was a coach calling me from Arizona State.”
A few days later, Kelly took an official visit to Tempe and not long after that, he committed.
Kelly is now a senior captain for the Sun Devils and is being pegged by many to be an NFL prospect after his college career comes to an end this season.
“In the beginning, I didn’t see it. I didn’t see myself being here,” said Kelly. “I saw myself maybe going to college, getting a job. Never imagined myself four years later here, sitting where I am. I really owe it to my mom and my friends who told me they knew I could do it when I didn’t.”
“I didn’t think I could do it. No chance!” he stated. “But they kept pushing me, telling me I had the talent and now I finally believe and finally see that I do have the talent to play at this level.”
Kelly and ASU are riding a two-game winning streak going into a huge matchup on the road against undefeated Utah and Kelly’s old JUCO teammate, Devontae Booker.