Recruiting & Scouting

Oak Park running back John Kelly chooses Tennessee over Big 10 schools

Football   | Scott Burnstein

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Oak Park – John Kelly has seen a good deal of the Midwest in his 18 years of life. Oak Park’s senior football star was born in Illinois, moved to Minnesota in elementary school and then landed in Michigan in junior high.

Now he’s ready to travel south.

Kelly, an all-state running back, committed to the University of Tennessee Thursday afternoon, choosing to become a Volunteer days removed from taking a visit to the school’s Knoxville campus.

He selected Tennessee over Michigan, Michigan State and Minnesota. His trip to see the campus last weekend secured his commitment.

“I had pretty much knew what I was going to do already, but taking my visit out there just sealed the deal,” the speedy, sturdily-built 5-foot-10, 205-pounder said. “This is the best opportunity for me. I’m confident I’ve made the right decision.”

The running back situation at Tennessee could provide Kelly a chance to get on the field right away – there are only two running backs on scholarship and Kelly is currently only one of two commits at his position in Tennessee’s 2015 recruiting class. His fellow commit hails from the junior college ranks and recently tore his ACL.

“I think I can go in there and get into the three-deep rotation early on," Kelly said. "It’s the SEC, they need as many tailbacks as they can get.”

The program’s positive aura under coach Butch Jones (formerly at Central Michigan) was an important factor in his deciding to head to Knoxville.

“Everyone in that program, from the coaches down to the players have such a great attitude, it really inspires you,” he said.

This past season Kelly, a State Champs Mr. Football candidate, rushed for 1,330 yards and 21 touchdowns. Prior to his pledge to become a Volunteer Thursday, he was widely considered the top uncommitted senior in the state.