Mentality matters most for Kelly

CLEMSON - Chad Kelly is a firm believer in the power of positive thinking.

That's why -- four months after undergoing ACL surgery -- he was back on the football field. Faith, hard work and dedication are among the factors that Kelly pointed to on Tuesday when reporters asked him about returning to football less than five months after tearing his ACL.

At times, Chad Kelly admitted, even he's a skeptic.

"It is [remarkable]," he said. "But, at the same time, you've still got so many people saying, ‘Why are you back so quick?' It's like, ‘Dang, should I really be back that quick and everything?'

"Yeah, there are advances in the medical field and all that, but if you're working hard and you're dedicated, and you want to put your mind to something, you can really do it. I truly believe that -- from the bottom of my heart -- if you say something, it will happen."

That sunny April afternoon started off so well. The former Elite 11 quarterback bounced around the field with his swag on his sleeve, and for good reason.

Kelly had completed 6 of 7 passes for 43 yards with a touchdown. Marching toward the east end zone in Death Valley, it appeared that Kelly would lead the Orange team back to pay dirt.

But, as he scrambled up field for extra yards, Kelly's knee buckled when tried to avoid a two-hand touch by Travis Blanks.

"There wasn't really a thought in my mind. It was just like something might have happened, not really sure, because I never had a major injury," Kelly said. "But when they told me I tore my ACL…I was kind of down on myself, but I knew in the back of my mind that I could come back bigger, faster, stronger and more mentally prepared."

Fortunately, for Kelly, he wasn't going to be alone in his recovery. Tight end Sam Cooper also tore his ACL in the spring game. They had surgery on the same day in May.

Both made their 2013 debuts in the 52-13 win over S.C. State. Tajh Boyd, who tore an ACL as a senior in high school, is impressed with how quickly they've recovered.

"It was awesome to them get into the game and just let people know that you can come back from injury like that sooner than expected," Boyd said. "Those guys have done a tremendous job of preparing and rehabbing, getting back in order. It was just good to have them out there."

According to Kelly, he and Cooper have leaned upon on each other to help make that possible.

"One day I was down and he was picking me up. The next day he was down and I was picking him up," Kelly said. "We were just trying to pick each other up and push each other. Sometimes, we would get angry at each other because we pushed each other so hard. That's what you need."

Kelly completed 2 of 6 passes for 11 yards and rushed for six yards on a pair of carries against S.C. State. But his return wasn't without a scare. In the fourth quarter, Kelly hobbled off the field after what appeared to be another injury to his recently reconstructed knee.

It, however, was just a calf injury.

"No MCL or LCL when it happened," Kelly said. "I got hit on the backside of my calf. The brace, it was so tight, it kind of swelled up."

Injury aside, Kelly was just happy to be back on the field for real, live football. It seemed like ages since his final snaps as a senior at St. Joseph's College Institute in New York.

"I set so many goals for myself back in the eighth grade, I'd written them down," Kelly said. "And that was one of my goals, to play in my first ever division one college football game, and that's what I was able to do.

"There's a whole bunch more I want to check off on that list. It's coming soon, but it just felt so good to get back out there."

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