Humble & Hungry: UCLA's Josh Kelley Shining at Senior Bowl

Donnie Druin

It's not often where taking a gamble pays off in a big way. Whether in Las Vegas or simply in your day-to-day life, it can be a scary challenge to face those fears head on. Football holds the same value, especially for UCLA running back Josh Kelley. After being raised by a single mother, Kelley played his first two seasons at UC Davis, before transferring to UCLA to finish his last two seasons. 

The catch? Kelley walked on to UCLA, foregoing his scholarship with UC Davis. 

"My mentality was 'I gotta be on scholarship, I want to be the best'. I made the move because I had confidence in myself" said Kelley after Senior Bowl practice on Wednesday. "I gotta own it now. It was a bump man, it was a grind. I think it worked out". Kelly ultimately earned a scholarship with the Bruins after joining them, as he was surprised by coach Chip Kelly in front of the whole team after concluding practice. 

Fast forward to the end of his collegiate football career, where Kelley finished 2019 with over 1,000 rushing yards, becoming just the eight player in school history to accomplish the feat after ending 2018 with 1,200 rushing yards as well. Kelley earned All-PAC-12 second-team honors this season.

Kelley can be described as hungry on the field, and with Kelley name-dropping Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliot as a guy he models himself after, the comparison makes sense in football and metaphorical fronts.

"He runs hard. He's always falling forward. Always taking care of the ball. I try my best to emulate what he's doing right now."

Now, his sights are set on the 2020 NFL Draft while preparing in Mobile. Kelley isn't fully aware of where he stands as far as his draft stock goes, but after a strong second day of practice at the Senior Bowl, he's starting to make some noise. 

"I think for me it's just getting more confidence" said Kelly on his impressive day two showing, while also acknowledging the adjustment period with brand new teammates and schemes. 

The Pittsburgh Steelers running back situation is certainly one to monitor over the course of the offseason. With the health of James Conner, the utilization of Jaylen Samuels/Benny Snell, the Steelers may very well be eyeing a running back in the upcoming draft. 

Or at least they've been doing their due diligence, as Kelley confirmed that he's met with head coach Mike Tomlin and the Steelers, calling them a "world-class" organization. 

Part of the reputation of being a world-class organization involves getting the right players, both on and off the field. Upon speaking with Kelley, he comes off extremely humble and grounded. 

"I'm definitely a Christian man, so that's where all the positivity and humility comes from. My running backs coach at UCLA (Coach Foster), he always taught me 'you're never as good as they say, you're never as bad as they say'. I try to keep myself grounded at all times". 

For evaluators, Kelley checks many boxes on the football field. Yet his off the field character may be what sells a team come late April. 

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