By Alex Barth, 985TheSportsHub.com
Bill Belichick speaks with the media about five times per week, about seven months out of the year. While most of that talk centers around his team, it’s inevitably going to drift occasionally. Keeping on that schedule for 20 years and counting, eventually the different tangents will reveal his take on just about anything.
On Wednesday morning, he turned his attention to high school football. In his opening statement to the media, Belichick was discussing the Chargers offensive weapons, including tight end Hunter Henry.
“Henry continues to be a complete and very, very good football player for them,” Belichick said. “I’ve watched him pretty much his whole career. He started at Pulaski Academy down in Little Rock, played for Coach [Kevin] Kelly down there.”
It’s not secret that Belichick watches plenty of college tape as he prepares for the NFL Draft each year, but high school tape? The comment drew a follow up question about Belichick’s familiarity with a private school in Arkansas that has an enrollment of just under 1,200.
“Well, you know, Coach Kelly is one of the – probably the top high school coach in the country and has certainly been one of the great coaches in Arkansas high school football history,” Belichick said. “He’s a little unconventional, but he’s had great success and he’s had a lot of players come through there – we’ve had a couple other ones here…I have great respect for Coach Kelly and the program he runs and some of the creative things that he does.”
To say Kelly is “a little unconventional” is an understatement. He’s known as ‘the coach who never punts.’ Again, that’s selling it a little short.
At one point, his teams had punted just eight times total over an eight year stretch. They don’t even practice punt returns. On top of that, every kickoff is an onside kick until his team “has gotten a substantial lead.”
“It’s a no-brainer that you don’t punt the football,” Kelly told Bleacher Report in 2016. “To me, that’s just not the way the game should be played.”
So what draws Bill Belichick, who is notoriously meticulous when it comes to special teams, to a guy who says ignoring that element of the game is “a no-brainer?” That likely has to do with the results.
Kelly has posted a 191-27-1 record at Pulaski since becoming the head coach in 2003. He’s won seven state championships, and appeared in three more. He’s also building a pipeline not just to Division I football, but the pros.
Four of Kelly’s players have appeared in the NFL. Half of them have played for Belichick at some point, in guard Jason King (Purdue) and wide receiver Will Hastings (Auburn). A third could soon be added to the list, based on the way Belichick drooled about Henry on Wednesday.
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More Pulaski players will be in the NFL soon, and because of what Belichick said Wednesday morning, they instantly become potential Patriots targets when they enter the NFL Draft in the coming years.
Offensive lineman Luke Jones was a thee-star recruit in the Class of 2018, and is currently a redshirt-sophomore at Arkansas after transferring from Notre Dame. Wide Receiver John David White is also a Pulaski product and current Razorback – he’s a redshirt-freshman after walking to the team. Then there’s Caden Haws, who switch from offensive to defensive line after signing with BYU, and has nine tackles this year as a redshirt-freshman.
When the greatest coach of all time calls somebody “the best high school coach in the country,” it’s worth stopping to look at. Especially when that coach is as brash and unconventional as Kelly. Could Pulaski become a Rutgers-like feeder for the Patriots? It’s something to keep an eye on.
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Alex Barth is a writer and digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Looking for a podcast guest? Let him know on Twitter @RealAlexBarth or via email at Alexander.Barth@bbgi.com.