Coach Kelly becomes 'Dad' when watching son Kenzel play football
Being the head coach of Notre Dame football requires many hours away from home. Finding a balance between being a father and a coach is tough, but Coach Brian Kelly makes the time to watch his son Kenzel play football at St. Joseph High School every chance he gets.
"I haven't been able to see my daughter, she was at Culver and my oldest, I didn't get a chance to see him play at all, so to watch Kenzel play at St. Joe's and the proximity of it has worked out so well and everybody has been really accommodating to make it happen, so it's been really fun," Coach Kelly said.
Kenzel is a senior at St. Joseph High School in South Bend.
“There’s so many other people who would be like ‘Oh I’ve got to prepare for Michigan.’ But he’s always been a big guy priding himself on his family. He’s a great dad, he always does first for the family and he hates when work interferes with the family stuff in general," Kenzel said. "I guess that’s how he grew up in Massachusetts, there’s three things you care about: Football, family and God.”
The head coach of Notre Dame showing up on the sidelines of a high school football game could cause quite a stir, but the Indians are used to it.
“I just see him as dad," Kenzel said.
"When he comes here, he's not the head football coach at Notre Dame, he's Kenzel's dad," said Bryon Whitten, the football coach at St. Joseph High School.
"I know both of us really enjoy watching him and we're just like every other parent, we want that 'W,'" Paqui Kelly said, Kenzel's mom. "It's high school football. You know, it's passionate and the kids really work hard just like the Notre Dame players do. They want to get a W and go onto the next week and get another one."
At the games, does Coach Kelly see himself as a dad or is he always a coach?
"Oh no, no, no. Dad 100-percent. Now, he'll ask me some things about technique and what he can do. He doesn't get into the coaching element. Invariably we'll talk about technique and some of the things he's doing, And then he'll want to know about Notre Dame football. He loves Notre Dame football, but it's fun. We'll talk about a few things about his technique and then he'll move onto something else like 'What's for dinner?'" Coach Kelly said.
Kenzel has grown up surrounded by college football so it's not surprise his dream is to play at the next level.
On October 17th he received a scholarship offer from Butler in Indianapolis.
“I’m just grateful, that they even gave me this opportunity to go play for them," Kenzel said. “That’s my main goal, I just want to go have fun with the boys, get a good education and probably be a GA somewhere.”
"He's been an energetic leader all the way across the board, all the way from his freshman year on up. He's always brought the energy, he's always brought the enthusiasm and he's just been a fun kid to coach. He can be ornery at times, but it's always good hearted and in the right manner and putting the team first," Coach Whitten said.
“I mean it’s just so fun to be out here, playing football and you get to play with your brothers, too, you know. It’s a team sport, there’s blood and there’s tears that go into this and nothing’s better than getting a dub on Friday night," Kenzel said.
Watching Kenzel play on Saturdays will be difficult for Coach Kelly so he took advantage while he had the chance
"I think that's what you try to do as a father, is to make those moments impactful when you get the opportunity," Coach Kelly said.