Up Close: Kyle Jolly, Part I

POWHATAN, Va. – You don't have to walk through locker-lined hallways or a massive cafeteria to find the Blessed Sacrament athletic department. And you certainly won't hear the loud din from throngs of high school students.

Instead, it's a quiet, leisurely stroll through small classroom cottages which enclose a well landscaped courtyard complete amidst a serene wooded backdrop. The attendees are adorned in school uniforms and a normal speaking voice is all that is necessary to be heard.

Inside Carolina popped in on the Knights star tight end and defensive tackle, Kyle Jolly, who was donning a light blue hooded sweatshirt with "CAROLINA" written across the chest.

The size of his school is the primary reason the 6-foot-6, 275-pound Jolly went largely unnoticed by Division I recruiters until Nov. 3, when he accepted a scholarship to play football at North Carolina in 2005.

"The biggest thing I've had to overcome is playing for such a small program," Jolly said. "I would go to the camps and have to prove that I could play with the big boys and that I could handle it."

Until that point, Jolly had only entertained offers from I-AA schools such as James Madison, Richmond and VMI. It wasn't until he made his "verbal" that his coach Mike Henderson began getting calls and visits from coaches from the likes of Virginia, Virginia Tech and Duke.

But by then, in fact since way back when he attended summer camp at UNC last summer, Jolly's mind was made up.

"I liked the whole look of the campus," Jolly said. "It was really pretty. And Coach [Hal] Hunter was just a real great guy. I got a real good feel for him. Coach [John] Bunting is just a great all-around guy. I just got a great feeling when I was talking to him."

Following his team's Virginia Independent State championship season, which culminated in an 11-2 finish and a 26-7 victory over Roanoke North Cross in the title game, Jolly lined his trophy case with numerous post-season awards – including being named the state's top offensive tackle by The Richmond Times Dispatch.

Although Jolly played tight end as a senior (he also played guard as a sophomore), and he caught just 15 passes for 115 yards – five for touchdowns – in Blessed Sacrament's run-oriented offense. He was the primary blocking entity for a tailback that rushed for 1,016 yards and 21 touchdowns in roughly just half of 11 games.

"We like to run the ball on the edge a lot," Henderson said. "Any defensive end that we played against, Kyle could block them one-on-one, by himself. He could ‘log' ‘em and they'd run outside, or we'd run the ball inside and he'd just kick ‘em out."

In a statistical testament to the Knights' dominance, they outscored their 2004 opponents 317-26 before intermission.

On defense, Jolly recorded 80 tackles (37 solo, 43 assisted), nine tackles for loss, three sacks and recovered two fumbles.

At Carolina, Jolly he will be an offensive tackle. He possesses great hands and excellent feet, Henderson said. But his speed (5.0 seconds over 40 yards) is a little slow to play tight end at the Division I level. He will also need to continue to add strength and weight, but keep in mind, he is only 17 years old right now.

"At 6-6, 275, that alone is going to get you looked at," Henderson said. "But what makes him a Division I prospect is that he has such nimble footwork. In our ‘speed-ladder drills,' he's one of the best we have including our tailbacks and corners. He's got really long arms, too; and I think that is going to help him a lot in his pass protection."

Stay tuned for Part II tomorrow…

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