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Saturday, March 25, 2023

South Carroll graduate Silas Kelly ready for homecoming, playing for XFL’s St. Louis Battlehawks – The Denver Post

All Silas Kelly needed was a chance to prove he belongs.

The South Carroll alum is no stranger to setbacks during his football career, from sitting out a redshirt season in college, then battling knee injuries in college that required multiple surgeries and a tough grind to comeback. Kelly still fought for his professional football career even after his time in the National Football League was cut short thanks to a hamstring injury.

Kelly’s football career pivoted to the newly reformed XFL, getting drafted by the St. Louis Battlehawks. He will play the closest he’s ever been to home Sunday afternoon, an opportunity that invokes a lot of emotion from the linebacker as he continues to persevere and live his dream.

“It’s gonna be special,” he said. “Having, a whole section of people that are there, supporting me and cheering me on.”

The Battlehawks play the D.C. Defenders at 1 p.m. Sunday at Audi Field. Kelly currently has five tackles through two games with St Louis.

Kelly was born in Mount Airy, playing football, basketball and running track at South Carroll, earning Carroll County Times first-team All-County honors in football each of his last two seasons.

He went on to play at Coastal Carolina, where he was a four-time All-Sun Belt selection. It was at Coastal where Kelly’s first set of setbacks happened. After tearing his ACL in 2019, he needed a second surgery shorty after to repair issues with his meniscus. Then when the COVID-19 pandemic began, Kelly was forced to rehab and train at home, using a makeshift gym provided to him with the help of his strength coaches.

Kelly credits his days at South Carroll for helping him develop the mindset and toughness needed to get through the tough times.

“I had a great coach and great teammates at South Carroll,” he said. “So when I got to Coastal, I felt like I had a good foundation for pushing through, being disciplined and staying resilient in the face of setbacks and injuries.”

Kelly battled back and finished his Coastal Carolina career third all-time with 340 career tackles. He also finished in the top 10 all-time in career sacks and tackles for loss. Leaving a legacy off the field, Kelly made the Dean’s list multiple times, even earning a 4.0 GPA and making the President’s list in 2020. He graduated with bachelor’s degree in both exercise and sports science and business management in December 2020 and his MBA in December 2021.

“I had a great experience there,” he said. “Coastal kind of kind of picked up where I left off in South Carolina and continued to develop me into the man and person I am today.”

Kelly joined the Cleveland Browns as an undrafted free agent. But a hamstring injury days before his preseason debut derailed his NFL path. He was released with an injury settlement.

“I was having an incredible camp and doing really well when I was with the Browns,” he said. “I felt like I belonged in the NFL and I didn’t get a chance prove that in the preseason games.”

For many, that would have been the end. But instead of settling and finding himself a 9-5, the XFL came calling and after being drafted in the 6th round of the 2022 XFL draft, Kelly had another chance at his dream.

“When I heard about the XFL and everything that they had going on, it seemed like a perfect opportunity for me to come in and show NFL teams what I can do as a professional football player,” Kelly said.

With the daily grind of 6:30 a.m. workouts, meetings, followed by practice at a Texas high school, Kelly, with girlfriend and fellow South Carroll alum Hayley Becker by his side, lives out his dream every day as he looks to make it back to the NFL.

“We’re professional athletes and it’s an all day affair,” he said. “When you consider game prep and film study, you’re kind of going from dusk till dawn or from sunrise to sunset.”

With the opportunity to play close to home this weekend, Kelly marvels at the opportunity to showcase all his all hard work in front of the section of fans, family and members of the Carroll County community who have been behind him every step of his journey.

“It’s going to be really awesome to be able to play as a professional athlete in front of people that helped get me here and have supported me along the way,” he said.

While he won’t be able to stop by his alma matter on this trip, Kelly has gone back multiple times since graduating in 2016. He hopes that people tune in on Sunday and see him playing as a sign, a message to those trying to pursue football or any other path in life.

“It’s about the little things,” he said. “Forget football, are you going to be disciplined in everyday life?” Are you going to treat others with dignity and respect? Those little things are huge and set you up to be able to handle times in life when things don’t go your way.”


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