D-II transfer could see regular action
FARGO – He wasn’t even on the roster last fall, although that didn’t matter to Jeremy Kelly. It was his time to prove in practice that he belonged in Division I football.
Mission accomplished. The junior transfer from Division II Minnesota-Crookston is poised to play a regular role for North Dakota State this season. If he doesn’t earn a starting berth, he’ll likely be a key backup as the Bison try to string together another successful season.
If so, it would be almost a direct opposite with the experience Kelly had at Crookston. The Eagles were 1-10 and 2-9 in his two seasons, which triggered his decision to transfer.
“I thought to myself after each game that football means too much to me and I’m dedicating myself to this,” he said. “That made me want to make the change to try and make a difference in a good program like this.”
Kelly is not your ordinary Division II-to-Division I transfer. He was rather highly recruited out of Somerset High School, located north of the Twin Cities just across the border in Wisconsin. He was named a first team all-state offensive lineman by the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel newspaper and accepted a scholarship offer from Air Force. NDSU, Illinois State and Southern Illinois also offered, according to online reports.
But he didn’t make it through basic training and, seeing his other scholarship offers were off the table, accepted a 40 percent ride at Crookston.
“I left basic just because of personal choice,” Kelly said. “By that time, it was already into fall camp for a lot of teams and those scholarships were gone.”
Including NDSU, which offered Kelly 95 percent of a full ride, he said.
“I can’t dwell on it, I have to move forward,” he said. “There’s nothing I can do about it now so I’m going to make the best out of the two years I have here.”
He was 6-foot-6 and 262 pounds when he transferred to NDSU – not the 280 that he was listed at on the Crookston football website. But he made enough of an impression during his redshirt season that former Bison offensive line coach Scott Fuchs said on a couple of occasions to watch out for this guy.
He took advantage of participating in an extensive off-season conditioning program for the first time in his career and is currently playing around 290 pounds.
“I’ve never done summer workouts like this,” he said. “I used to go home and work at the campground, work out at nights for an hour or two and have some nice meals. It’s a lot different here.”
Kelly is currently working at right tackle and right guard, although he was listed as a backup right tackle and left tackle in NDSU’s last depth chart release.
NDSU has revamped its entire starting front with the graduation of Billy Turner and Tyler Gimmestad, the career-ending knee injury to center Josh Colville and a season-ending knee injury to guard Zack Johnson. Joe Haeg is the only returning starter and he moved from right tackle to left tackle.
“We’re going to put the best two on the right side out there, the best two on the left side out there and the best center out there,” Kelly said. “We have only one returning starter and he’s not returning at the same position so there is a lot of competition. We’re rotating a lot of guys at a lot of different positions to see where everything fits.”
NDSU will find out right away how the offensive line fits against an FBS opponent when the Bison play at Iowa State on Aug. 30. It’s a new level of football for Kelly and he couldn’t be happier.
“I’m glad where I ended up to say the least,” he said. “It was a long journey but this is where I’m at and I’m going to end my career at North Dakota State.”
Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be reached at (701) 241-5546.
Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found