Given the rich tradition of standout quarterbacks the program has produced, Teurlings Catholic junior Cole Kelley is sort of an anomaly.
For starters, Kelley towers over his school’s standard size of past quarterbacks at 6-foot-7. He weighs 240 pounds and wears a size 17 shoe.Until recently, when 6-5 Conner Cronin served as a starter, the Rebels had customarily relied on more mobile quarterbacks in the 6-foot range to function in their system out of the shotgun.
Five games into his career, Kelley has not only meshed to form another successful offensive unit — one that will be on display in Friday’s District 5-4A showdown when No. 5 Teurlings (4-1, 2-0) visits No. 1 St. Thomas More (6-0, 2-0) — but has given every indication of joining the school’s fraternity of elite quarterbacks.
“It’s always in the back of my mind about all the good quarterbacks that have come through here, but I don’t think about it too much,” Kelley said. “I try to play my own game and don’t compare myself to other people. I just compare myself to me and what I can do.”
Kelley said it wasn’t until he attended Teurlings that he became aware that Jake Delhomme first distinguished himself at the school before going on to a record-breaking career at UL-Lafayette and an 11-year stint in the NFL that included a Super Bowl appearance with Carolina.
Kelley, whose career path included playing defensive tackle and nose guard, arrived at Teurlings, where he watched Cronin for a year and serving as a backup last season to senior Brye Latiolais, completing 20 passes for 305 yards and 2 touchdowns.
“He just waited his turn and did a good job in his role,” Teurlings coach Sonny Charpentier, who is 174-54 in his 19th season at the school. “He never once came in my office and complained.”
Charpentier compared Kelley to former LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger, now a rookie with the Tennessee Titans, because of his stature, powerful right arm and preference for staying in the pocket.
It’s not exactly the prototypical makeup of an up-tempo quarterback for Teurlings’ system, but Kelley has thrived in the pocket and shown enough athleticism to escape pressure.
“It fits me perfectly,” said Kelley, who averaged 19.7 points and more than 10 rebounds for the Rebels basketball team last season. “Obviously, my weakness is running the ball and getting outside the pocket, which I hardly have to do. I can read defenses better in the pocket.”
Through the first five weeks of the season, Kelley ranked third statewide, completing 65 percent of his passes (97 of 148) for 1,388 yards with 14 touchdowns and five interceptions.
Kelley’s been exceptional since the start of the season, positioning Teurlings for a breakthrough win with 245 yards and 3 TDs in the season opener against University High before the Cubs rallied late for a 36-35 victory.
With each outing, Kelley has elevated the level of his play to the point where college recruiters have taken notice with LSU, Texas A&M and Florida capturing his early attention.
During consecutive victories over Notre Dame of Crowley (17-14) and Cecilia (55-25), Kelly surpassed the 300-yard plateau with a season-high 345 yards and two TDs against Notre Dame and 324 yards and a season-best four TDs versus Cecilia.
“I don’t know if that’s good,” Kelley said in response to his current passing total. “I’m not focusing on that part, just focusing on the team we play next.”
Asked which current quarterback he patterned his game after, Kelley responded Denver’s Peyton Manning more for acumen than his arm strength and pinpoint accuracy.
Charpentier describes Kelley in much the same way: a player with a tremendous football IQ, desire to improve daily and successfully lead those around him.
“He’s special,” Charpentier said. “He wants you to make him better and that’s what I like about him. He’s never satisfied and thinks he can always be better. At every level, all the good ones want to be better, and more importantly, he holds everybody accountable. He’s a leader, and they follow him. He’s got that ‘it’ factor.”