For a while, it looked like Alex Kelly’s family would have to travel more than 600 miles to watch him play collegiate football.
Now, they’ll only have to cross the street.
Kelly, an all-state quarterback from Rocky Mountain High School in Fort Collins, committed to play at CSU last weekend after an earlier verbal commitment to Montana State.
Out of CSU’s 15 known commitments, Kelly is the only Fort Collins native. His family, which lives less than a mile from Hughes Stadium, has been supporting Ram football for years.
“My parents are pretty stoked,” Kelly said. “We go to every (CSU football) game anyway. Now they can hopefully come see me play for the next few years.”
Kelly’s dad, Jim, graduated from CSU in the 1970s, and said he was excited to have one more reason to follow the Rams.
“We’ve been going to games since before Alex can remember,” Jim Kelly said. “We live close enough to the stadium we can walk over if we want to. Sometimes we do.”
Not only is Alex Kelly CSU’s only Fort Collins recruit, he is also the only quarterback secured by first-year coach Steve Fairchild, who played the position for the Rams in 1980.
“To be the first quarterback that Fairchild brought in, it’s pretty neat,” Alex Kelly said.
“I can remember back when Fairchild played and (quarterbacks coach) Daren Wilkinson, too,” said Jim Kelly. “I couldn’t be more excited about Alex’s opportunity.”
Though it seems a perfect fit, it was only last week when Fairchild and his staff made Alex Kelly a scholarship offer.
Having already planned to attend Montana State, Alex Kelly said it was difficult to change his mind at the last minute.
“It was hard,” he said. “Montana State is a top-notch program, and they were great to me. It was tough to turn them down.”
In the end, Kelly said it was the CSU staff, along with the lure of playing Division I-A as opposed to I-AA at Montana State, which made CSU an offer he couldn’t pass up.
“It was the coaches,” Alex Kelly said. “At first, I wasn’t sure how legit this was. But the more I talked to the staff, they convinced me they really wanted me and that I could contribute here.”
Alex Kelly was named to the Colorado all-state team by the Rocky Mountain News following the 2007 season. He threw for 2,349 yards (second-most in the state) and 27 touchdowns as a senior for the 8-3 Lobos.
Rocky Mountain head football coach Mark Brook said he will bring grit and leadership to the Rams, a team coming off a 3-9 mark in 2007.
“He was the leader — he was a coach on the field for us,” Brook said. “In my mind, he’s like a defensive player playing offense, just with the tenacity he brings.”
At 6-foot-2 and 205 pounds, Brook said Kelly is a “big quarterback with a strong arm. I could go on all day about his abilities.”
CSU currently has six returning quarterbacks on its roster — including likely starting candidates Billy Farris and Grant Stucker — but Kelly could have a shot to become a quarterback of the future under the new head coach.
Fairchild, who under NCAA rules is not allowed to comment on his recruiting class until today’s national signing day, has said he hopes to bring a high-scoring and pass-friendly offense to the Rams.
Not only is Fairchild a former quarterback, but as CSU’s offensive coordinator from 1997-2000, the Rams set their all-time season scoring record (442 points in 1997) and had two quarterbacks earn conference player of the year honors (Moses Moreno in 1997 and Matt Newton in 2000).
Brook said he believes Kelly is entering the program at a perfect time.
“I think a plus you’re going to see is they are a hungry program right now,” Brook said. “For a kid to come into a situation like that, it’s enticing.”
And for Kelly’s family, the decision couldn’t be more fitting. Nor could it be any closer to home.
Sports writer Jeff Dillon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.