Kevin Kelley is charming, but he’s not a charmer. I admire charm, but I distrust charmers.
I appreciated the new Presbyterian College head football coach’s time on Friday. This was not a planned offshoot. I didn’t meet him for a story, but I reserved the right to a column. I just wanted to make an impression on him and for him to make an impression on me.
The PC coach met me for lunch, we talked for over two hours, and it wasn’t for a specific purpose other than getting to know each other. And I’m a sportswriter. I felt like I had gone back 25 years to a time when journalists were held in greater esteem, which is to say esteem at all.
I wrote Kelley an email in which I used the adjective I will probably use forever in reference to Tommy Spangler’s firing, which was and is “despicable.” I wrote it wasn’t Kelley’s fault. I’ve lived in Clinton most of my life, and I wrote that I knew a fair amount about the town and Presbyterian College that he probably didn’t know and I thought he needed to. He took me up on it. Damndest thing.
Let the record note that I like Clinton and PC. I’ve told many people that it’s not that I love Clinton. It’s that I know it, and I’ve gradually concluded that I’m not fit to live anywhere else.
Not that I don’t think about it at fairly regular intervals.
Kelley talked a good bit off the record to me, and I returned the favor to him. I believed him to be honest, and I know I was. It wasn’t anything like an interview. It was a conversation in which the record needle spun off both sides. Records. Needles. Check Wikipedia, kids.
We ate at Steamers because I think it’s about as Clinton as Clinton gets. I had a cheeseburger because a Red’s cheeseburger was what my raising taught me a cheeseburger was. Kelley had barbecue with onion rings and fried okra. It inspired me to get some onion rings, too.
The new Blue Hose coach is supremely confident that what most consider a radical approach to football is actually the way that football ought to be played. Confidence is a prerequisite of coaching. A heap of them secretly believe they’re the best there ever was, and that’s OK as long as they add a coating of invisible humility.
Kelley wasn’t talking trash and he wasn’t playing shy. My impression is that he said exactly what he thought. I don’t often have that impression about anyone but myself and a few trusted pals. He doesn’t just want to win. He wants to revolutionize the game. He wants to make Clinton a center of attention in the college football universe.
He’s a tad ambitious. I like that.
As I imagine a season of trick plays and, uh, swashbuckling feats of wizardry, the prospect does quicken my pulse and cause it to skip the occasional beat. Win or lose, it’s going to provide some tales to tell.