One of the finalists for the Warrick Dunn Award is Silliman Institute quarterback Zach Kelly, a very impressive young man both on and off the field.
"He does everything that you'd want a kid to do. Not going to be an off the field issue. Great character, great Christian young man," said Silliman head coach T.J. Davis.
"I can't say how big of an honor it is, especially for the MAIS. To get our league out there, because a lot of people don't necessarily respect our league," said Kelly. "But once you get there you realize it's no walk-thought, cupcake. It's really good competition and high level football."
It was a landmark year for the Silliman High Wildcats, winning their first football state championship in 14 years. And it was Kelly running the show, rushing for nearly 1,700 and 22 touchdowns, while passing for over 2,200 yards and 24 more scores.
"You know I think it's his ability to push for excellence. He's not just a run of the mill, great athlete. He's had to work for everything," Davis said.
Kelly rushed for a school-record 352 yards against Heritage Academy in the regional round of the MAIS playoffs. In the state championship against Indianola Academy, he was at his best, carrying for 138 yards and two scores, while passing for two more touchdowns.
"That was definitely something that was very special for me and our team, and that's definitely something I'll always remember," Kelly said. "I felt like we were on the field for five minutes, but in actuality we were probably out there a good hour, hour and a half.
"And just, every person from the community. I can't tell you how many people I took pictures with. Shook their hands, gave them hugs. It was really a special moment for us."
And Zach Kelly is so much more than football. He's never made a B, posting a 4.0 GPA at Silliman and scoring a 32 on his ACT. Those are academic credentials that have already gotten him accepted to Ivy League schools like Princeton.
"He's going to push all of your athletes on the field to be prepared," Davis said. "You're talking about a guy who knows all 11 positions and what they're suppose to do and how they're suppose to do it."
The winner of the Sportsline Player of the Year Award will be announced at this year's Warrick Dunn banquet on Wednesday, January 27.
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