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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Thriving Kelly just happy to be playing football

Wisconsin defensive end Brendan Kelly has three sacks – two of which came Saturday at Michigan State – and two forced fumbles in seven games this year.[/media-credit]

If Brendan Kelly could trade in his two fourth quarter sacks of Michigan State quarterback Kirk Cousins for a win, he would.

In Wisconsin’s heartbreaking 37-31 loss Saturday in East Lansing, Mich., the redshirt junior defensive end was in Cousins’ face all game, sacking him twice for 19 yards and forcing a fumble on the second.

But despite his outstanding game, luck just swung toward the opposite sideline as Cousin’s last-second Hail Mary reached the end zone and was deflected into the hands of Keith Nichol for a game-clinching touchdown.


“I would trade the game in right to give up those statistics and get a ‘W’,” Kelly said. “I can’t say it feels that great. I wish I could walk away and say that I picked a pass off and ran it back for a touchdown and won the game for us. Winning is what we want to do; that’s what I love doing.”

Ever since he stepped in for the injured David Gilbert, Kelly has been winning – albeit on a personal level.

In the week leading up to the intensely anticipated Big Ten conference opener against Nebraska, Gilbert broke his foot during practice, opening the door for Kelly to get the start.

Fellow starting defensive end Louis Nzegwu has noticed the seamless transition from Gilbert to Kelly.

“He’s that type of guy that’s always waiting for his opportunity,” Nzegwu said. “The second that David got hurt, he was there, prepared to take his spot. … Everybody gets hurt; you don’t know when your last play is, and BK just filled in that role like he was there, starting the whole entire year.

“BK is one of those guys that’s always prepared. He’s always working, always willing to get better. I was excited when he finally got his chance to play, and he’s really filling that role in for David.”

While Kelly had the opportunity to fill in for a injured teammate this season, he knows what it is like to be on the other side of the situation.

Last season, Kelly was forced to redshirt due to a groin injury he suffered in 2009. For most of that year, no one was able to identify the cause of the injury – much less figure out how to fix it.

Three surgeries later, Kelly was finally on the road to rehab and a chance at getting on the field again. But for a period of time, he thought his career was over.

“Realistically, I was mad,” Kelly said. “I was frustrated with myself, I was frustrated with my body. I couldn’t understand why it wasn’t healing the way it should have been, why it wasn’t being fixed, why people didn’t know, couldn’t get answers. But the one constant: I never gave up. I always kept fighting even if I questioned myself. I always kept fighting. … I’m a football player. I knew in my heart that I was meant to play football.”

Despite being forced to sit out for over an entire season, Kelly used his time off the field to watch film and familiarize himself with more schemes and defensive looks.

Instead of spending hours in practice, he not only rehabbed and made himself stronger; he gained a higher intelligence of the game, making him an all-around stronger player.

“He really had two years off from football because of his injuries,” defensive line coach Charlie Partridge said. “But he studied film through that whole injury process, and I’m excited about the improvement in his technique, and he’s starting to make some plays because of it.”

“I think it helped greatly,” Kelly said. “Just to recognize different formations, different plays and definitely staying in tune with the defense and what they’re doing. A lot of guys get hurt and they go off by themselves and try to tackle that injury by themselves, but I said, ‘You know, I want to be a part of the team, whatever team we’re playing.’ If we’re playing TCU in the Rose Bowl, I’m going to prepare like I’m going to be starting in the Rose Bowl, and I’m going to watch that much film.'”

So far, it has paid off. In Wisconsin’s first seven games, Kelly has 22 tackles, three sacks for 25 yards, two forced fumbles and one pass deflected. He has only started three games, but he has already made an undeniable impact on the field. And it all comes as no surprise to Partridge.

“I think the things I got were some of the things that, quite honestly, I expected,” Partridge said. “His work ethic really is second to none. He’s a student of the game.”

But last year, Kelly thought for a time he would never get the chance to don a Wisconsin jersey again. To him, this year is simply a blessing.

“It’s definitely a blessing,” Kelly said. “The only person I can credit that with is God. There was a period there when I thought my game, my career as a football player was over. … I stepped in as a starter and it’s just a blessing. I just can’t be any happier about it.”

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