Last August, before Xavier Kelly’s recruitment went into the stratosphere, East High football coach Brian Byers made what seems now like an eerily accurate prediction on what the next two years would hold for his star player.
“I think this thing is going to blow up,” Byers said. “I think once people see exactly what kind of an athlete he is, it’s going to take off.”
Byers couldn’t have been more right.
Since he withdrew his commitment from Kansas State in March, Kelly (6-foot-6, 238 pounds) has watched his offers expand to almost every part of the country and every power conference.
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Coaches from Arizona State, Baylor and Nebraska were waiting Thursday to talk to Kelly, a junior with one year of high school football remaining, after he came out of weights class. They got to see Kelly, as he’s made a custom of doing, have a classmate film his dunks to post online, including one where he stuck his arm in the rim, a la Vince Carter’s slam in the 2000 NBA dunk contest.
“I work out every day for a couple of hours at school, and Coach Byers does a great job of pushing me pretty hard in the weight room,” Kelly said. “That’s good because I need to stay focused on working hard, because that’s what got me here in the first place.”
Kelly’s postal carrier is also getting a workout — TCU sent Kelly 132 letters in one day, representing one for each of Coach Gary Patterson’s career wins.
“(The mailman) said he had to make a couple of trips,” Kelly said. “I think my mom was a little shocked by it all.”
Last Saturday, Kelly was at Nebraska for the Huskers’ spring game, along with Lawrence High defensive end Amani Bledsoe, another four-star recruit. Since Monday, Arizona State, Baylor, Texas A&M, Tennessee and Iowa have all offered scholarships to bring Kelly’s total to 20.
“It was a little surprising,” Kelly said. “I didn’t expect that many offers to come in. Some schools that I haven’t heard from a lot offered and that was unexpected.”
Byers has seen his players go through these type of nationwide recruitments in the past — when he was an assistant at Northwest coaching Tennessee Titans defensive end Kamerion Wimbley, and at East coaching Baltimore Ravens linebacker Arthur Brown and Buffalo Bills running back Bryce Brown.
“I’ve talked to him about keeping his circle of friends and people he trusts small,” Byers said. “Make sure he knows that the only people that should make this decision are himself, his mom and his dad. People are going to come and say, ‘I can do this’ or ‘I can do that’ for you, but that’s just not the case. There’s nothing that needs to be done. The offers are already out there.”
Kelly’s plan is to take day visits to as many campuses as possible in June, announce his top five schools before football season starts and commit at the Army All-American game in San Antonio on Jan. 9.
“My parents and I are going to try and drive to whatever schools we can to meet the coaches and get a feel for the campus, then we’ll fly to certain areas,” Kelly said. “The schedule may change depending on the offers, like now we’ll probably take a visit to Texas A&M and Baylor, but we’re adapting as we go.”
ON THE TABLE
Schools that have offered East’s Xavier Kelly a football scholarship as of Friday, listed by conference: