By Andrew Quigley Jr.
For those of us who have followed the career of Chelsea native Brian Kelly as he has ascended the ranks over the past 30 years to rate among the top-tier of college football coaches, this week’s announcement that Brian has been named the head coach of the Louisiana State University Tigers comes as no surprise.
To be sure, there were many who felt that Kelly had found a home for life, so to speak, as the head coach at Notre Dame — considered by many to be the premier college football coaching job in the country — where he has coached since 2010.
But the reality of college football these days is that the Southeastern Conference — consisting of schools such as Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Florida, Auburn, LSU, and Ole Miss, among others — is the pre-eminent college football conference in the nation.
Although Brian has achieved great success at Notre Dame, where he has become the Irish’s all-time winningest coach with a record of 113-40, we’re sure that the opportunity to go up against Nick Saban of Alabama and the other SEC coaches proved to be an irresistible challenge for coach Kelly. (As well, we might add, as did the offer of a 10-year, $95 million contract.)
For those of us who call Chelsea our home, and who recall Brian’s dad, former Ward 3 Alderman Paul Kelly, who served in the era of the late 1960s-early 70s before moving his family to Everett (from where Brian, who is 60 years old, went to high school at St. John’s Prep in Danvers), there is no doubt that the chance to compete at the very-highest echelon of his profession proved irresistible.
That fire and desire in coach Kelly’s Chelsea-bred personality was captured well in a profile of Brian in the New York Times in 2007, when he was the head coach at Cincinnati:
“Brian Kelly appeared destined for a career in politics. He grew up campaigning for his father, an alderman in Chelsea, Mass., and worked for Gary Hart’s 1984 presidential campaign.
“Kelly, now the football coach at Cincinnati, spent much of his life appealing to voters.
“ ‘Even when he was quite young he would go out with me on the weekends, and go off and think nothing of knocking on someone’s door to give them a leaflet’,” Paul Kelly said of his son.
“Who knew that training in politics would also be perfect for a career in coaching? But Brian Kelly’s engaging personality, political skill, and public speaking ability make him an ideal modern coach. In his first full season at Cincinnati, he is as comfortable giving orders on the sideline as he is mingling with alumni donors or sitting in a recruit’s living room.
“ ‘It’s the reaching out’,” Kelly said of the similarities between politicians and head coaches. “ ‘You have to go door-to-door to get votes. It’s the same thing taking ownership of a program’.”
We know we join with all of our fellow long-time residents in wishing Brian Kelly well in his new endeavor. His story is typical of so many others who had their roots in Chelsea and who epitomize the well-known saying, “Local boy (or girl) done good.”
Plus, for those of us who are college football fans, we’ll now have a new team to root for.