Athlete, war veteran remembers 9/11
Published: Tuesday, September 11, 2012
Updated: Friday, May 17, 2013 13:05
The words athletes say, “We’re going to war!” take on a whole new meaning for UTEP’s freshman defensive lineman, Michael Kelly.
A rookie on the gridiron, but a seasoned veteran off the field when it comes to dealing with matters of life and death, Kelley understands the importance of teamwork, and having faith, confidence and trust in the man standing next and behind him.
“If we’re going to war in a football game, you still have that concept of looking out for that guy next to you and behind you,” Kelley said. “You have to do your job…take care of each other, otherwise if you do anything on the selfish end of it, you’re going to fail.”
Kelley is an Iraqi Freedom Veteran who served three tours with the U.S. Army in the Middle East. He’s a happily married man and father of two, and he’s got plenty of advice and encouragement to pass on to his fellow teammates.
You can’t help but notice the seriousness in his tone, his demeanor, and the fire in his eyes when he talks about the significance that Sept. 11 has for him. The tragic events that took place that day made quite an impact on him and he recognized all the pain and losses that many families went through on that day.
“I enlisted in the Army a year after that happened. I always take a moment to reflect…anytime I see anything patriotic on TV or hear on the news or anything like that it really means something to me,” Kelley said. “It’s just different, it’s hard to explain but it’s a certain deep connection that you have for that message you see.”
The level of respect goes beyond the playing field, it carries over to the coaching staff, the seasoned veteran players and the younger players on the team. Head coach Mike Price is very appreciative of having this young man on his team, not only for his athletic abilities, but for his leadership skills.
young man on his team, not only for his athletic abilities, but for his leadership skills.
“He has experiences that nobody else and myself included has. He’s a credit to our armed services, he’s a credit to his family, he’s a credit to himself, our football team and our community,” Price said. “He’s just learning the game right now, but I think his real value could come maybe not on the field, but inside in the locker room and discussing it with younger players. He would be a good guy to use to go to advice as far as being a counselor.”
Defensive Coordinator Andre Patterson echoed Price’s statement, and mentioned how having a service veteran like Kelley on his team is a big plus.
“Having blind faith in your other soldiers; that’s what I talk to the defensive guys about a lot, is that we have to have a blind trust in one another. That the guy to the side of you, to the left to the right, behind you is going to do his job,” Patterson said. “So now all I have to worry about is doing my job, and he’s experienced that in the service, so I’ve had him step up and talk to the guys about that. He’s real good as far as leading by example with those things.”
Herman Delgado may be reached at email@example.com.