Former Red Lion High School quarterback Chad Kelly throws a pass on the first day spring practice at Clemson University recently. Kelly is one of three QBs
Former Red Lion High School quarterback Chad Kelly throws a pass on the first day spring practice at Clemson University recently. Kelly is one of three QBs battling to become Clemson's starter for the 2014 season. (MARK CRAMMER -- The Associated Press, from the Anderson Independent-Mail)

Chad Kelly.

If you've followed York County football over the past decade, you're very familiar with the name.

Kelly emerged on the local sports scene back in 2008, when he was just 13. He was living in Red Lion and he'd already won two NFL Punt, Pass and Kick contests.

During the summer of 2007, however, the youngster suffered a frightening spinal cord injury while competing at a Buffalo football camp operated by Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly, who just happens to be Chad Kelly's uncle.

For a time, it was uncertain if Chad Kelly would ever play football again. There was even fear of paralysis. Eventually, however, he recovered, but only after a long, difficult rehabilitation. In January of 2008, he battled back to win his third Punt, Pass and Kick title.

It was an inspiring tale.

Many folks in Red Lion, meanwhile, could hardly wait for Kelly to play for the high school team. The Lions have a football program with a long and proud history, and folks in the southern part of the county were hoping Kelly could add a new chapter of success to that history.

Tumultuous time in Red Lion: In September of 2008, Kelly became the starting varsity quarterback for Red Lion as a freshman. He quickly displayed exceptional athleticism as both a runner and a thrower. His potential seemed nearly unlimited. In his debut vs. York High, he passed for 147 yards, including a touchdown, and rushed for 65 yards.

But that's where his inspiring tale took an unexpectedly negative turn.


After his impressive debut, Kelly was soon suspended from the team for undisclosed reasons and missed the rest of his freshman season.

He returned to Red Lion for his sophomore season in 2009, and again looked like a QB with bright future. He started five games and led the Lions to a 2-3 record. His numbers weren't eye-popping, but they were more than respectable for a sophomore — 56-for-119 passing (47.1 percent) with nine touchdowns and seven interceptions. He threw for 876 yards and also ran for 455 yards. He averaged 4.8 yards per carry.

That's when Kelly was suspended — again. The reason for the suspension again remain undisclosed.

Moving on: Soon thereafter, the Kelly family soon left York County and moved to the Buffalo area.

The move seemed to work in everyone's best.

In 2010, the year after Kelly left Red Lion, the Lions enjoyed a stellar season under Head Coach Pat Conrad, going 10-4 and advancing to the District 3-AAAA title game.

Kelly, meanwhile, thrived at St. Joseph Collegiate Institute. As a senior, he passed for 3,050 yards and 27 TDs while rushing for 991 yards and 14 TDs. As a junior, he passed for 2,159 yards and 24 TDs and rushed for 1,059 yards and 15 TDs. Kelly led his team to the state title game as a junior and senior, winning the state crown as a junior.

Those numbers made Kelly into a high school All-American. Not surprisingly, the recruiters came calling in droves. Kelly eventually settled on Clemson.

Since his arrival in South Carolina, Kelly has seen limited action. That shouldn't be surprising. He was sitting behind one of the top college QBs in the nation, Tajh Boyd.

He redshirted in 2012 and then suffered a torn ACL injury in the spring of 2013. Despite the injury, he recovered in time to play in a mop-up role last fall, going 10-for-17 for 58 yards in 55 snaps over five games. He also rushed for 117 yards and one TD on only 16 carries as the third-team QB.

Opportunity to start: Now Kelly is getting his opportunity to become Clemson's starter.

Boyd is moving on to the NFL and three players — including Kelly — are vying to replace him during spring practice.

Kelly will have to beat out last year's primary backup, Cole Stoudt, and promising true freshman Deshaun Watson, a dual-threat QB who enrolled early to take part in spring drills.

Stoudt, who will be a senior in the fall, is the son of former Pittsburgh Steelers' QB Cliff Stoudt. Stoudt has seen limited action at Clemson, but he has completed 72 percent of his passes with just one interception in 119 career attempts over three seasons.

Confident young man: Stoudt has more experience, but Kelly isn't conceding anything. Confidence has never been a problem for the former Red Lion player.

In fact, Kelly got into a tiff early in his Clemson career when he said on Twitter he was out to supplant Stoudt as Boyd's backup, something that did not happen.

If you want any other examples of Kelly's confidence, check out his Twitter feed (@ChadKelly_11). Here are just a few of his recent Tweets:

"I Love When People Underestimate Me, Just So I Can Prove The Haters Wrong."

"Alot Of People Want To See Me Fail, But I'm Not Gonna Let That Happen."

"I Was Born To Win."

No, it's pretty obvious that the 6-foot, 1-inch, 210-pound Kelly is no shrinking violet.

Interested York County fans: Of course, the folks in Red Lion who knew Kelly from his time there probably knew that already.

It will be interesting to see if Kelly can live up to his bold statements in the weeks and months ahead and become Clemson's starting QB.

You can be sure of one thing. Some interested football fans here in York County will be paying close attention.

Steve Heiser is sports editor of The York Dispatch. He can be reached at