Houston Lamar HS
NR: 1 SR: 4 Rating: *****
An Inside Texas conversation with Houston Lamar head coach Tom Nolen on Andrew Kelson:
IT: When did you know Andrew was something special?
Nolen: We kinda knew when we saw him playing in seventh and eighth grade at our feeder school in Lanier. His freshman year, he was hurt a little bit, he kinda had some hip problems. He played, but he was obviously not full speed. I think a lot of it had to do with just growing but the first game he played, against Cy Creek as a sophomore, he intercepts the ball and runs it back 90 yard for the game-winner. They're going in to score and he intercepts the ball and runs it back and it's the game-winner, so not only has he always been a good player, he's had a flair for making the big play. So it was pretty early on, you could tell...
IT: How big was he back then?
Nolen: Six-one, 200. I always thought he was gonna get a little bigger than he actually is.
IT: Do you see him remaining at safety or developing into a linebacker?
Nolen: It just depends on whether he grows or not. You really never know. His father is actually a lot taller than he is but on the other hand, Gerome Sapp was heavily recruited by Texas when they signed Rod Babers, and he ended up going to Notre Dame. I always thought that (outside linebacker) would end up being his position and he was here the other day and he's playing for the Ravens, and he looks exactly the same as he did when he was a senior in high school, about 6-foot, 215, which is maybe seven or eight pounds more than he weighed and he's still playing in the secondary. I always thought he'd get a lot bigger, so you never know about Andrew.
IT: Would you describe Andrew as a hard-hitting safety type?
Nolen: We used him more as an alley runner, plays man coverage and he's off running the off tackle on both sides so he's a big hitter and he's good in man-to-man coverage.
IT: Does he have speed to be big shutdown corner?
Nolen: I'm not sure. He's awful quick, we've just never really played him out there because he was so valuable not only as a pass defender but as a run stopper. We play pretty much man on the outside which means when they go into coverage, you've pretty much lost 'em to do anything else. Never say never, but we didn't have the luxury. We had some other kids that could do it.
*Kelson with Lamar teammate and Texas signee Brian Orakpo
IT: Could he just as easily be a standout offensive player on the next level?
Nolen: I've wondered that sometime this year. The dye is kinda set, but I often wonder if we might not have even done better this year if we had played Andrew all the time on offense and just tried to outscore everybody. He just produces, and with everybody on him he's a great decoy, too, so I think he's an amazing kid with all the things that he accomplished. At one time or another, there's obviously a lot of great athletes in Texas capable of doing a lot of things, but I don't know if you can find one that has done as many different things well as he's done in big games, especially this year at Lamar, whether it's returning punts or making the tackle on the kickoff team, catching the ball, running the ball, intercepting the ball, making tackles.
IT: When did he start exhibiting leadership skills?
Nolen: I think he's always had them. He's always been an extremely mature kid and his junior year he was more vocal off the field and on the field. He's always been the leader of the secondary -- make sure everybody lined up correctly really since he was a sophomore, but a little more vocal off the field and on the field as a junior and he really leads by example. He never has any problems out there. He's always on time, ready to go, ready to rip.
IT: Anything that we didn't cover that you'd like to add?
Nolen: Andrew is just real special. I've been doing this for a long time and I don't know if we've ever had anybody that's quite like him. What you see when you talk to him is what you'd get if you were hiding and watching him. That's a real credit to him.
Note: This is the final report in our Inside the Class of '04 series.