It was supposed to be a year filled with a run at a Pac-12 title, a run at a national title, a chance at a Heisman spotlight and an elevation of NFL Draft status. All lofty but all possible for Taylor Kelly’s senior season at Arizona State. But adversity struck early in the season as Kelly has been sidelined for the last five weeks with a foot injury and has been forced to miss ASU’s last three games against UCLA, USC and Stanford.
There are many out there that might be crushed having to miss time with all of these goals on the back of your mind and an opportunity to feel bad for yourself. However, from Todd Graham’s perspective, Kelly has been the opposite while he has stood on the sidelines.
“I hate it that he’s worked so hard and he’s never going to get the opportunity to play the last three games that he’s missed again,” said Graham on Monday at his weekly press conference. “But he doesn’t sit around feeling sorry for himself at all. He’s working his tail off. He’s been a great asset to Mike (Bercovici) and to Coach (Mike) Norvell in these times.”
“He’s participated in every possible way you can do it,” he added.
Since Graham took over as the head coach of this program, Taylor Kelly has been on the field as the leader and the quarterback. Him being on the sidelines has been new territory for them both and what Graham has seen from Kelly during this time, has only made him love who he is as a player and a person that much more.
“He is the most selfless player that I have ever been around,” Graham stated. “He’s a winner and if I was doing anything, I would hire him. As a matter of fact I’ve encouraged him every day that when he’s done playing football, I would love to try to get him to coach because I’d hire him in a heartbeat.”
If you ask Kelly before the season, during the season, and during this time he has been out with the injury, the goal for him remains the same, and that has been to win a conference championship.
“To be real honest with you, we haven’t really thought about it,” Graham mentioned. “We are just trying to win a championship. Everybody’s needs individually kind of take a back seat and he’s (Kelly) just a guy where it doesn’t surprise me how he has handled it. I know it hurts, it’s got to hurt him.”
Kelly warmed up on the field at Sun Devil Stadium last week before the start of the Stanford game to see how he felt. The team was ready to give him a shot. But Graham opted not to push it and speaking of the character Kelly possessed, he even mentioned he did not feel he was ready and wanted the team to be in the hands of Bercovici who was prepared to win that important game against the Cardinal.
“If I was making the decision with my heart, I would have let him play,” Graham explained. “But I watched him and I didn’t think ‘t wasn’t ready play and he didn’t either. And he was very honest about that…I look for him to hopefully progress and hopefully this would be a week he’d be back.”
While Mike Bercovici has been stellar in Kelly’s absence, Graham and the coaching staff have maintained that Kelly will be the guy if he is ready to go. Whether or not that will be the case this Saturday night against Washington remains to be seen.