“He is one of the most competitive players I’ve coached,” Drew Casani, head football coach at Loyola High School, told EVT. “He wants to beat you in everything, doesn’t matter if it’s football, basketball, a race, or just ping pong or something. He always wants to win.”
“He” is Jacoby Kelly, a 6’3 wide receiver from Loyola (Los Angeles, CA) who is part of San Diego State’s 2022 signing class. Kelly was named First Team All-League in his junior and senior seasons and a 3-star recruit per 247Sports and Rivals.
He held offers from a dozen schools, including three from Power 5 conferences, but chose the Aztecs due to the trust he built with the coaching staff and falling in love with the school during his visit with his mother last summer. “[My mother and I] were both comfortable with me committing [to SDSU] when it came down to making a decision,” said Kelly during an upcoming episode of The SDSU Football Podcast.
Kelly was a multi-sport athlete at Loyola, playing on the basketball team and also running the 100m dash and 4x100m relay. Kelly attributes building up his stamina and speed for football to playing these sports. “Running up and down the [basketball] court helps me build my endurance more, and then track helps with speed,” Kelly said. “It really has helped me become a better athlete overall.”
Becoming a better overall athlete helped Kelly mold his game after his favorite football player, Calvin Johnson, former wide receiver for the Detroit Lions and NFL Hall of Famer. Johnson, given the nickname “Megatron” in his rookie season by his former Lions teammate, Roy Williams, continually made highlight-reel catches at his 6’5 height and was a menace for opposing defenses to cover. “He’s a big receiver, and that’s kind of who I am, and I like to think of myself in his light, almost having the same game like him,” said Kelly.
One aspect of Megatron’s dominance was utilizing his strength to fight for passes in the air and ability to gain yards after the catch because he was so difficult to bring down by smaller defenders in the secondary. Kelly exhibits that same trait. “Jacoby is so strong going up for 50/50 balls…and made so many big plays for us with his strength as a runner after the catch,” said coach Casani.
Kelly is eager to play for coach Hunkie Cooper, emphasizing it is “a huge honor to be able to play for somebody as great and as highly respected.” Kelly has seen the growth and development of the other receivers under coach Cooper, specifically Jesse Matthews, and is ready to take his game to the next level. “I can’t wait to be under that sort of guidance because I want to level up my game to be the best receiver I could potentially be,” he said.
On a recent episode of The SDSU Football Podcast, coach Cooper described how the SDSU offense has been successful over the past several years because of their running game at the expense of their passing game. While the wide receivers were not receiving the opportunities and the production they wanted, they continued to help extend runs by blocking well on the perimeter. “That’s my pride: no block, no rock,” said Cooper, alluding to the fact that if a receiver does not do his job as a blocker in the run game, he should not expect the receive the ball in the passing game.
“I know that he’s going to definitely emphasize that, so it’s good to have that in my repertoire [already],” Kelly exclaimed, crediting his wide receivers coach at Loyola, Gabe Marks, who made the receivers do additional blocking drills and told them that college football coaches are going to pay attention to the receivers that block the best.
The moment coach Casani knew Kelly was going to succeed at the next level was when he became a dominant blocker and separated himself from his peers. “He was devastating [as a blocker] and created big plays in our screen game and running game,” he said. “It was that selflessness that really impressed me.”
Kelly knows the difficulty of playing right away as a true freshman but is eager to get to campus during the summer and learn the playbook. Given his size and strength, Kelly has a better chance than most incoming freshmen to do it. The Aztecs’ wide receiver unit currently features a lot of young, explosive wide receivers with speed, but only two receivers that are as tall (Brionne Penny) or taller (Tyrell Shavers) than Kelly.
“I could fit in wherever they need me to, whatever they need me to do, whenever they need me to do it,” Kelly said. It is this attitude, along with the intense competitiveness he exhibits in all aspects of his life, that will give Kelly a shot to being on the field when Snapdragon Stadium opens on September 3.