By Ernie Gonzalez (@superego1012):
Jermaine Kelly spent six months committed to UCLA. Suddenly, he changed his mind.
Kelly decommitted, forcing him to make a National Signing Day decision in 2013.
It was selection time. Kelly played with his audience as he hovered his hands over a USC Trojan cap, then moved them over, grabbed the purple and white Washington Husky hat instead, unfolded it, and put it on with a smile.
Two championship-caliber Division I offers from schools 20 minutes up the road, both passed up — and he wouldn’t change a thing. “If I had to do it all over again, I wouldn’t,” Kelly said.
He left Los Angeles for Seattle, leaving behind his little brother Jeremy who was set to begin his junior season at Bishop Mora Salesian High School.
The two played varsity together for the Mustangs, but when Jermaine left, Jeremy knew it was his time to shine.
“When [Jermaine] left for college… I had nothing but myself to worry about and to just take football seriously,” Jeremy said. “That was probably my best year of high school football.”
Jermaine redshirted his first year in Washington, eyeballing the chemistry graduate assistant Donte’ Williams fostered with Husky defensive backs Desmond Trufant and Marcus Peters, both now in NFL vets.
Williams, also an LA native, built a reputation of being one of the top player-bribers in the country, landing in Sports Illustrated’s top 10 recruiters in 2015.
Flash forward 18 months. This time, it was Jeremy’s turn to make a decision.
Jeremy, a highly rated safety received five Pac-12 offers (including Washington), as well as offers from San Diego State and San Jose State.
“Nobody knows that he came here because of me,” Jermaine said. “He asked me should he play offense for Colorado, or defense for San Jose.”
“I said go play for coach Donte’[Williams],” Jermaine told Jeremy.
Williams had been SJSU’s defensive backs coach since 2013 and it proved to play a big role in Jeremy’s commitment.
He passed on the Huskies. He passed on the Buffaloes. There’s an old saying that goes, ‘You get what you give.’
Jermaine gave his brother that advice. It couldn’t had come full circle unless he got some in return, and he did by joining the Spartans in 2015.
Jermaine felt he needed a clean slate, but didn’t know where to turn to after playing just two games in two seasons as a member of the Huskies, even injuring his ankle.
“I asked [Jeremy]. I said bro, where should I go?” Jermaine said. “I don’t want to step on your toes in San Jose, but should I go to San Jose or should I do me at Louisville?”
“I think you should come here.” Jeremy said.
To ask his younger brother, who’s basically been in his shadow his whole life, for permission to join him at a Mountain West school, after numerous offers from Pac-12, Big 10, ACC and AAC teams speaks volumes.
“I put everything into perspective… a six hour drive to LA, you know, he’s there,” Jermaine said. “A coach that recruited me [Williams] was here. I just felt like it was the right move. It just seemed right. ”
Jermaine and Jeremy now wear the same uniform, again, as they did in high school. This time though, as Spartans.
“Those are two really great kids,” said head coach Brent Brennan. “Together on the team, they are just a great part of what we are doing here.”
Nevertheless, that doesn’t put a pause on competition. At least for Jeremy, as he made the switch from safety to wide receiver.
What used to be an “I’m going to make the tackle before you” type of tussle turned into an “I’m going to catch this ball on you,” between the two.
“When I played defense with him, it was like a trust thing,” Jeremy said. “I played safety and he played corner…it was like an I got your back, you got my back kind of thing.”
In all, the finish line stays the same. It’s to grow each and every day, and Jeremy knows it, whether that means making a tackle, or breaking one.
“But now that I’m on offense, it’s kind of like — let’s get better today.” Jeremy said.
That’s what it’s about, that’s what it’s been about and that’s what it will continue to be about for the Kelly brothers.
Getting better. Together. Regardless where one goes. That’s the Kelly way.