My Sportsman: Chip Kelly
Everything was going badly for Kelly. His flux-capacitor offense was running on flat tires and an empty tank throughout its 19-8 season-opening loss at Boise State in September. His star running back,
They all were about to find out who they were dealing with.
"What is your address?'" Kelly emailed back to the smart aleck, who a few days later received a personal check signed by Charles Kelly (Four Hundred Thirty Nine & 00/100).
Blount? He was suspended for the season by Kelly in a move that other coaches would not have made. Two months later Blount was invited back to the team after meeting Kelly's standards of remorse and attendance at classes and practices, though he has yet to earn his way back into a game.
The running game? He jerry-rigged the offense to season-saving wins over Purdue and Utah, followed by blowouts of highly-ranked Cal and Southern Cal that put Kelly -- a heretofore nobody -- in the driver's seat to the Rose Bowl. In truth he'd behaved as if he was always strapped in there, with a Diet Coke in the cupholder and the Dropkick Murphys thumping out the speakers.
Winning or losing, rich or poor, he was the same coach he had always been. The Oregon fan who angrily demanded his money back thought he was being smart when he sent Kelly the invoice for his travel expenses to the Boise State game. Never try to outsmart a smart aleck. That Four Hundred Thirty Nine & 00/100 means as little to Kelly now as it did when he was skint. When he was moving from job to job, from Columbia to New Hampshire to Johns Hopkins and back to UNH, where he strode the Division 1-AA mud as an assistant coach for 13 years, he went by a simple rule: "If it doesn't fit in the car, it doesn't come with you." Behind him he left apartments abandoned with beds, couches and dining tables as he worked his way up.
When his old college roommate
The lesson of converting a bad first week into a terrific season has a lot to do with indulging your inner smart aleck, spreading the field and going for two whenever possible. In the big picture, Four Hundred Thirty Nine & 00/100 means little compared to the priorities of winning football games and having friends, the lifelong aims to which Kelly applies identical enthusiasm.
Which makes Chip Kelly my Sportsman Of The Year.
The check is in the mail.