By Matt Leon
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Widener University has enjoyed a lot of success in recent years in college football. The Division III Pride went to the national quarterfinals two years ago and last season put together a solid 6-4 campaign. However, head coach Isaac Collins left after that deep post-season run in 2012 and his replacement, Bobby Acosta, moved on after the 2013 season. So despite the success, there hasn’t been much continuity with the head coaching position with the Pride. Mike Kelly plans to put an end to that.
Kelly, who has coached at all different levels including college, the NFL, the CFL and the now defunct XFL, was hired recently to take over the Widener program. And he says he’s ready to set up shop in Chester.
“This is my last job,” Kelly tells KYW Newsradio. “This is where I’m staying. They’re going to have to have a Viking funeral for me down the Ridley Creek out there. I’ve been through this as a player. I signed with one coach (in college at Bluffton University in Ohio) who resigned to go to the University of Dayton before I even got on campus, had a coach that I didn’t even really know, he got fired after three years, so going into my senior year I had a new coach. And I left that new coach wishing that I had more time to play for him. I’m hoping that that’s the situation here. So there is experience to draw on here.”
Kelly is no stranger to the Delaware Valley, his lengthy resume includes time spent with the Eagles in 2001 and 2002, serving as a scout and an offensive assistant coach.
“I’m so excited to be here in Chester and particularly at Widener University,” Kelly says. “This is a coming home for me. I’ve had an absolutely wonderful career, met a lot of great people, had a lot of great experiences. But at the end of the day, you want to live somewhere where you are comfortable. You want to be at an institution that you can be proud of and that you can represent and you want to work with kids that want to be a part of the program and want to experience success. And I think my past experiences can assist the kids to get to the goals that they want to achieve. Everything was right about this offer and I couldn’t get here fast enough.”
Coaching has been in Kelly’s blood for a long, long time.
“My dad was a high school coach in Waterbury, Connecticut,” Kelly says. “And so my fondest memories go back to being five years old and riding on the (blocking) sled with him while he had those kids pushing that thing and he had a whistle around his neck. Hanging out in the locker room at a young age and being on that practice field was hallowed ground to me. It’s really the only thing that I’ve ever wanted to do.”
Now Kelly is inheriting a group that has talent and has enjoyed success. He talks about his coaching philosophy and what Widener fans can expect.
“My thing is being a teacher,” Kelly says. “And teaching these kids how to play the game of football. At the end of the day, it’s about blocking and tackling. Coaching to me is putting your young men in a position to be successful. As I do more evaluations, as we go through spring ball, which is going to be far more of an individual technique and really learning their position than it is going to be about schematics, we’ll do some base things. But if you wanted to put any kind of label on it, you’d say we’re going to be multiple on defense and a pro-style offense. But we’re going to do things to put our best players in position to make plays.”
Kelly will make his debut as Widener’s head coach on September 5th when the pride visit Rowan University.
You can follow Matt on Twitter @mattleonkyw.