By Paul Meadors, Sports Editor
One thing is for certain – Caleb Kelly is a man of his word.
Ending months and months of speculation—and opinions that spread all over the country—the uber-talented Clovis West linebacker announced on Feb. 3 his commitment to the University of Oklahoma with some flair and fun on the cafeteria stage of Lincoln Elementary School in front of over 200 friends, family, coaches, past and present teachers and media members.
Kelly had always been adamant about committing on National Signing Day in February after his senior season, even after the media world and casual acquaintances would hound him for answers, poking and prodding him for any bit of information.
But, at 5:30 on a cool Wednesday evening, the weight would finally be lifted off his broad shoulders, with a little bit of help from family.
With mother Valerie and brother Jeremiah joining him at a table adorned with his Clovis West and Army Bowl jersey (and helmet), his Butkus Award trophy for the nation’s top linebacker, flanked by maroon and gold balloons and three hats representing Oregon, Oklahoma, and Notre Dame, Kelly flipped a coin letting it fall under the table. Surely he wasn’t leaving his decision to chance was he?
But little brother Jeremiah, an eighth grader at Kastner Intermediate School, emerged wearing two hats one under another. And the top one showing was the Dallas Cowboys.
The trouble is: the Cowboys are obviously an NFL team, so there’s gotta be a catch right? After laughter subsided, Kelly grabbed the white hat sitting on the table with OU and placed it on his head with the announcement “I’m going to Oklahoma.”
Jeremiah peeled off the Cowboys hat to reveal a second white Oklahoma hat and mama Valerie put on a red visor. The wait was over; the Kellys were now a part of Sooner Nation.
And what kind of player are the Sooners getting? And more importantly, what kind of person?
First of all, they’re getting a 6’3” 225 athlete who very well could make an impact next season as the Sooners (who ended the season ranked No. 4 in the country) will have to replace four linebackers from last year’s team. Oh yeah, and the Sooners made the CFA college football playoffs as the No. 4 seed. And second, as Clovis West linebacker coach Art Francis put it: “He’s a super nice guy but when he’s on the field he turns into a beast.”
But, the process of recruiting can be stressful and in the now widely competitive and sometimes cutthroat world of social media, internet blogs and college football commentary; the breaking point can come to a head quickly. And for Kelly, rated as the No. 2 ranked overall linebacker in the country, and his family, they had been bogged down in the recent weeks with the weight of his future decision.
And all it took was a mother’s intuition two weeks before a final decision was to be made.
“I looked at him and said ‘We can’t do this anymore,’” said Valerie, a 1995 graduate of Clovis West. “It’s time to choose.”
So Kelly retreated to his bedroom and looked for some divine intervention for guidance – and He answered.
“I was stressing and cried two tears, one from each eye,” said Kelly. “I didn’t even want to make the decision and actually I didn’t even make the decision – God made the decision.”
Caleb emerged from his bedroom with peace in his heart and first told little brother, then his mom, who he considers his best friend and biggest supporter.
And when Kelly called Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops, well, picture one of the most respected college coaches in the business doing a happy dance.
“Coach Stoops was breathing hard on the phone,” Kelly said. “He said ‘I’m completely elated. I can’t believe you’re coming.’ It was really cool that he wanted me so bad.”
After he hung up the phone Kelly then called Mike Stoops, the defensive coordinator and brother of Bob. He had the same type of reaction: “We are going to be making some beautiful music together.”
And as for Kelly, the apple of the eye for so many from young to old, this was a night to remember.
“Nobody had to be there but they took time out of their lives to celebrate me,” said Kelly. “I looked out there and saw the faces of people who impacted me. I think that is so special.”
Paul Meadors can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @paulmeadors