Q&A with Brandon Kelly

It doesn't take long to realize why Brandon Kelly was recruited by the likes of Harvard, Princeton and Duke. The Bedford high school senior is one of the most well-spoken, intelligent recruits you will find. Last night, shortly after giving his commitment to Coach Barry Alvarez, Kelly talked in-depth about why he will become a Badger.

BN: First of all, congratulations on your commitment. You have made a lot of Badger fans very happy. Can you talk about how you went about making your decision?

Kelly: Thank you. It's very exciting. I mean, we were looking at it for a long time. For a long time the leading two have been Stanford and Wisconsin. I think I was trying to push it back to these official visits before I gave it too much thought so I wouldn't have a leader in mind going into the visits. But once I went out to Stanford, I really liked it out there, mainly because of the academics, the scenery, the environment, the campus. That's beautiful out there, and coming from Cleveland where it's 35 degrees and snowing right now, San Francisco where it's 73 and sunny, that's a big jump. So you know that's what I really liked about that.

Wisconsin is Big Ten football. My parents will be able to see me play. It's a really, really good engineering school and Coach Alvarez is a legacy. I will be able to play for him. Once you weigh them out, Stanford was more academics. I mean, their football program is down right now. They have a new head coach and I don't know how that situation is going to work out, if he goes another year being 2-9. So I don't really want to go through the transition of having a new head coach. I laid it out, and Wisconsin is academics and football. It's more well-rounded, whereas Stanford is just academics. I'm a football player, so I want to have that weigh into my decision. Back in the early days I had Harvard and Princeton looking at me. If I just wanted academics, I would have put all my focus into those schools.

BN: The engineering school at Wisconsin is almost adjacent to the football facilities. Is that what you want to major in?

Kelly: Yeah, I want to major in engineering, probably civil. Architecture is what I want to do.

BN: Who hosted you on your visit this weekend?

Kelly: Umm…Enrique. Enrique Cook. I'm sorry. We were joking around so much, we had so many names for everybody. I had a great time.

BN: It sounds like you really fit in with those guys.

Kelly: Yeah, but to be honest, it wasn't just Wisconsin where I felt like I fit in, so that made everything cloudy. That made the decision even harder, because I remember we went up to Boston, and that was one of the first times when I felt like, man that sounded good. Then we went down to Duke and I'm laughing and joking with everybody and had a great time. Then I go out to Stanford two weeks ago, and I thought I was going to go there. I was like, `Man, this is good.' Then Wisconsin, it just has everything. A little bit of everything, and that's what I like most about it. It has the people, the camaraderie, the family environment to it. It was the best choice.

BN: So you just gave your verbal (Tuesday evening) with Coach Barry Alvarez and (Wide Receivers Coach) Henry Mason in your home, correct?

Kelly: Coach Mason was just going to come, and I wanted to get this out of the way. I wanted to commit because I knew I wanted to go to Wisconsin. So I asked him if he could bring Coach Alvarez with him. They arranged it. They worked it out.

BN: They must have been pretty excited when you told them?

Kelly: Yeah, I mean, you know going into it they had to know, because I wouldn't just call the head coach out, just to talk three days after I got off the official visit. But once the words came out of my mouth, everybody was really excited.

BN: Did they talk to you about how they want to use you next year or down the road?

Kelly: Yeah, they want me as a linebacker and more specifically, the drop linebacker. They say that's more of an athletic role. Like I could drop into coverage, I could blitz, I could play man-up on the tight end and that's what I did a lot of in high school. We just played a base 4-4 defense, cover 3, and I was able to drop out on receivers when they split them out and cover them man-to-man when we had a coverage call. Or I was able to blitz and make a play in the backfield. That's what they saw, and I think that helped put me in this position, to play in that role.

BN: Have you played any other sports in high school?

Kelly: I played baseball my first two years of high school, and I was really good. But there came a time when it was interfering too much. I played AAU baseball for three years, and I would go from the last game of AAU to the first day of two-a-days, and then I would have to miss tournaments and games with AAU to try to sneak in at football camps or something. So it was really hectic. But I think my 10th-grade year of playing varsity, I batted .400. So I was decent.

BN: Do you feel like a big weight has been lifted off your shoulders with this decision behind you?

Kelly: Yes it does, I can actually breathe. And I can sleep happy with the decision I made. That was something I enjoyed today. Just knowing that you don't have to procrastinate any longer, go through any more, listen to any more presentations. You know what you want. You just go out and get it.

BN: Can you take a step back and tell me how you initially got interested in Wisconsin? I imagine the success of guys from your area with the program had a lot to do with it.

Kelly: Wisconsin has been in my mind for about four years, before I even started looking at recruiting, before I even thought of myself as being recruited. I was just working out to try to earn a varsity position. While I was working out, we have our workout room in our basement, and you know, Chris Chambers and Lee Evans both graduated from my high school, and I was the water boy when they played so I had connections with them. I was used to watching them play, seeing them excel. So I would workout down in the basement and listen to them on TV and always watch the Wisconsin game. Whenever I heard Wisconsin, it was always Chris Chambers. I remember seeing the play where he dove in the back of the end zone, made a diving catch that took them to the Rose Bowl. So that's always been a goal. That was what I was working for, to have the opportunity to follow in their footsteps and play for the Badgers one day.

BN: Having followed Lee Evans' career for so long, it must be tough for you to see what he's had to go through over the last nine months.

Kelly: Yeah, but I know a couple of players who have gone through injuries, had surgeries and come back, I can't say better than they were before, but it didn't affect their game. So I told him that. Well I didn't tell him this, but I wanted to. I didn't get a chance to talk to him, but he's one of my inspirations, just seeing him. I know he's going to do well. I know he's going to bounce back. All this is in the past, and there are only good things for him in the future. But that's a sad part of the game, especially when it happens to somebody in that position.

BN: I bet you are rooting hard for him to come back next year, so the former Bedford water boy can play on the same field with Lee Evans?

Kelly: Oh yeah, I guess in a way I'm fortunate to be able to be on the same team with him next year, so I can see his work ethic. I always wanted to come up under somebody who is already accomplished, and somebody who has been through it already. Lee knows what it takes. So to come back and see his work ethic, to see what he's doing, that means in four years I will be able to do the same thing. I can compare myself, like okay, he was doing this, I have to be doing this. It will give me that gauge, more motivation to work so that one day, I will be in his position. Whereas he could have been in the draft last year…hopefully one day I will be in that position.

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