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My American Football journey with the Coventry Jets – Josh Kelly

Josh Kelly - The Battered Bastards

My name is Josh Kelly, I’m 28 years old and i play Offensive/Defensive Line for the Coventry Jets American Football Club in the United Kingdom. I’ve been playing for five seasons in total. Three in the Premiership and two in Division 1. This is my story.

My First Practice

A friend of mine went down to a training session with the Jets and he really enjoyed himself. He said to me about going along with him some week to try it out, as he thought I would like it too.

As soon as i turned up, the guys made me feel welcome. We did a warm up and then split down into different position groups. It was decided that i should slot in with the guys on Defensive line. To start, we went through the basics of our stance and first steps etc, which i found quite difficult as i’d never done anything like that before.

One of the veteran guys on the team let me borrow his helmet and pads to try a bit of contact. I just remember going up against this guy who had the hardest head i’ve ever faced. He hit me so hard that the helmet spun round to the other side of my head. My adrenaline started pumping and i knew, there and then, that this is what i wanted to do.

Josh Kelly - First Practice - Photo by takingthepixel
Josh Kelly – First Practice – Photo by takingthepixel

Rookie Season

The 2014 season was my best experience of playing American Football.

The Jets were in the Premiership North Division of the British American Football Association (BAFA).

I started out my career on the Defensive Line, but reluctantly made the move to Offensive Tackle due to low numbers on the O-line. I will never forget my first start at Tackle though. We had an Away fixture against the Yorkshire Rams and we managed to come away with the win. It’s always good to get a win, but knowing you contributed, while debuting at a new position, made it very sweet.The standout moment from that season was when we faced off against the Sheffield Predators (now known as the Sheffield Giants) in the last game of the season. We needed a win to guarantee us a place in the playoffs. It was a low scoring defensive battle throughout. Sheffield were leading 7-6 with 1 minute left on the clock, but we had the ball and were in Field Goal range. As the clock was winding down, we lined up for a field goal and put it straight through the sticks to win the game 9-7. That win put us through to the playoffs and a shot at the London Warriors.

The Warriors game didn’t go as we had hoped it would, we lost, but it gave me great hope for the next season.

Josh Kelly  - Last minute FG to win the game - Photo by takingthepixel
Josh Kelly – Last minute FG to win the game – Photo by takingthepixel

Injury

The most heart-breaking moment of my carrier so far occurred when i played a game against the East Kilbride Pirates in the penultimate game of the 2016 season.

We were on Offence and we started inside our own 20 yard line. I was playing Left Guard and the Coach called a Run play straight up the middle. I just remember slipping and missing my block. I had to recover, so the only thing i could do was to throw my body in the way of their Defensive Tackle, and as i did, i went in head first with the crown of my helmet and connected with his thigh.

The pain i felt was unbelievable. All I could do was lay there on the turf face down. I couldn’t move my head.

I was quickly examined by the medics and they put me in a neck brace, stuck me in the ambulance, and took me to the nearest hospital.

After some attention and wait, the doctors came round with the X-ray results. The relief i felt when they said that nothing was broken was immense. As it turned out, i had seriously compressed my neck.

That injury meant that i would miss the final game of the season. Not being able to travel with the team to that last game hurt me just as much as the injury.

Josh Kelly  - medics attending to Josh
Josh Kelly – medics attending to Josh

“All I could do was lay there on the turf face down. I couldn’t move my head”

Disappointment

After having a losing season in 2016, the Jets were relegated to Division 1 the next year. We had high hopes of competing and were looking forward to facing teams that we’ve never played before.

We had a strong preseason and i had made the transition to Middle Linebacker. After a very close defeat in the season opener against the Ceasers, we went into game 2 to face the Sandwell Steelers.

We battled hard throughout but, we came away with the biggest defeat i have ever faced. 71-0. This was a really hard pill to swallow and i was really disappointed in my own performance.

On the coach journey home, i received a text message from the General Manager of a rival team, asking me how the game went. We chatted a bit and he said how disappointing the loss was etc, but he also said that i should come and play for his team instead.

My head was completely shot to pieces after the game, and with the GM of another team, messaging me, asking me to join his squad, i made an impulsive decision to put a transfer request in to his team. It was accepted and i left the Jets.

Later that week, i turned up to my first training session for my new team and i knew instantly that this wasn’t my home. But i made this decision, so, i just had to get on with it and i did what i needed to do to fit in.

We had a game that next weekend, and, who was it against? Yes, the Jets.

When i turned up at the Jets home ground, playing for a different team sucked. I just stood there with my new team, looking at my old team, and regretting what i had done. Long story short, we beat the Jets and two weeks later i put in another transfer request to go back to the Jets. As the saying goes, the grass isn’t always greener on the other side.

Josh Kelly - Coventry Jets v Sandwell Steelers - Photo by Whizzyfingers
Josh Kelly – Coventry Jets v Sandwell Steelers – Photo by Whizzyfingers

Hard Work

Being a member of the Jets over the past few years has been hard work. In 2017 the team went 1-9 and then in 2018 we went 0-10.

This past year has been the hardest by far. At the beginning of the season, i took on the role of Players Representative, which put me on the clubs Committee. Along with that, i was also Kit Manager, Team Captain and a Player/Coach.

At the start of the season, the club started with 60 players. After just 3 games, the squad was down to about 25 players. With such low numbers on the team, it was more work for everyone and i found myself playing ‘Ironman’ football most games with positions on the Offensive Line, Defensive Line and Middle Linebacker. I didn’t mind because i have always put the team first, and i would do anything, or play anywhere i can.

I’ve been very passionate about playing this sport since i started back in 2014. I always wear my heart on my sleeve, and sometimes that comes across as being aggressive to some, but all I’ve ever wanted to do is win football games.

Josh Kelly - Jets v Ceasers
Josh Kelly – Jets v Ceasers

Family

I have an amazing wife and 4 beautiful daughters. I’ve always put American Football before them and i know it shouldn’t be that way. They have gave up an awful lot for me to play this sport and i will be forever grateful to them for that.I have also met some amazing people throughout my years of playing and i have also made some friends for life. I would recommend Football to everyone.

Josh Kelly  - Josh with his family
Josh Kelly – Josh with his family

I will be attending The Podyum’s Breakthrough Camp this off-season to work and develop my skills so that I can become a better player and to keep learning.

Thanks

Josh

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