TAMPA – After earning his first full season of varsity football, Jesuit rising junior Kijah Kelly wants to bring his game to the next level in 2016.

The 5’10”, 172-pound athlete is a burner wherever he lines up on the field.

Playing both varsity football and JV basketball as a sophomore, Kelly is focusing solely on football at Jesuit this season. He plays for the Skills Center Elite AAU team which he says helps him stay conditioned.

Last season served as a true confidence builder for Kelly because he says he played a lot and went against some of the top talent in the area.

“Once I step on the field, I feel like I’m the best man on the field,” Kelly said. “You can’t burn me.”

After appearing in two games with the varsity team as a freshman, Kelly started off this past season the right way by scoring his first receiving touchdown in the opening game against Lakewood Ranch.

“I was like ‘wow, I just scored my first touchdown of my high school career’. I was super happy. I had my family there for the game. I can’t even explain it, it was just awesome.”

Just two weeks later, Kelly added his first rushing touchdown in a 45-0 blowout win against a shorthanded Leto squad. He called the play much different than the receiving score. In total, he had 202 yards on 30 touches (17 receptions, 13 rushes) and two touchdowns.

Kelly says he’s very comfortable no matter where he lines up whether it is at slot receiver, outside, running back or on defense as a safety or cornerback.

His biggest strength right now is his route running. He says he’s pretty quick in his routes and with his hands. Kelly wants to continue to get even faster and stronger.

North Carolina State and Florida are the two teams thus far that have shown interest in the Class of 2018 athlete.

Starting his football life at age 5, Kelly played quarterback and running back before transitioning to wide receiver. Jesuit wants to utilize his speed and agility no matter where he lines up.

His dad Kenny Kelly is one of the best quarterbacks to play in Hillsborough County back in the late 90’s with Tampa Catholic.

For Kijah, he got to experience something great last season as the Tigers hosted eventual 5A state champion Orlando Bishop Moore in the state semifinals. The loss ruined Jesuit’s undefeated season as they finished 13-1, but Kelly says he knows that his group will build off the experience.

“It was a big game to be honest. We wanted it. I feel like we wanted it more. We practiced hard and worked hard for it. Everyone was going 110 percent, but we just fell short.”

Jesuit head coach Matt Thompson has led the Tigers to three straight district titles. Kelly calls Thompson a great man and a really good coach.

When Kelly isn’t playing for Jesuit or the Skills Center Elite, he takes part in the Unsigned Preps 7-on-7 team. Head coach Ricky Sailor leads the group which consists of some of the best talent in the area including Jesuit teammate Malik Davis, Daquon Green (Tampa Bay Tech), Bentlee Sanders (Tampa Catholic), Ken Montgomery (Hillsborough), Tre’ McKitty (IMG Academy) and Antoine Thompson (Plant City).

Kelly has a very close relationship with his parents, who seem to be everywhere when he has a sporting event. He calls his mother his biggest role model.

“She’s always there for me. She always taught me to never quit and do the best in what I can do.”

His ultimate goal with the game of football is to play at the next level and help take care of his family and friends. Kelly wants to study either sports medicine or sport management in college.

With two years left in his prep career, Kelly’s game is only going to improve. He has some great burst off the snap as a receiver and in coverage as a defensive back his speed helps him hang with the best of them.

Kijah Kelly’s role is growing at Jesuit and rightfully so. He should be fun to watch this season as his playing time increases.

Note: Jesuit plays host to Gibbs on Thursday in their spring game.


Quick hitters

Favorite players to watch – Odell Beckham Jr., Laquon Treadwell
Playlist for games – Kodak Black, Lil Uzi Vert, Drake
Favorite movies – Gridiron Gang, The Longest Yard
Favorite TV shows – The Walking Dead
Fun fact about you that nobody knows – “I’m raw at backflipping. I just taught myself.”
Nickname from friends or teammates – “Kyay.”

Game film: Kelly’s Hudl tape

Jake Perper is the scout for Prep Sports Scouting. Make sure to follow along for all the updates on Twitter: @JakePerper.

If you have any questions or comments feel free to write below or email Jake at jake.perper@hotmail.com.

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