FSU defensive coordinator Charles Kelly speaks to Rotary Club about football journey

Published 9:14 pm Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Most people recognize Charles Kelly because of his haircut. The bald Florida State University defensive coordinator hasn’t worn anything on his head since 1993. Kelly was playing for Auburn, and the Tigers went 11-0 that season. He hasn’t worn a hat since.

The Bainbridge Rotary Club enjoyed Kelly as their special speaker Tuesday. Prior to coaching at FSU, he spent seven years as a coach at Georgia Tech.

During the Seminoles’ 2013 National Championship season, he served as the team’s special teams and linebacker coach. When Jeremy Pruitt took the defensive coordinator job at Georgia, Kelly rose to take his spot.

He spoke about the teams’ journey and how special it was to be a part of it. As a coach, working with players and helping them succeed is the most rewarding part of his job.

“The reason we coach is because of the young men we have a chance to influence,” Kelly said. “Some of the most rewarding times in my life were coaching at places nobody has ever heard of.”

Kelly was raised in a football family in Ozark, Alabama his father a football coach himself. Kelly spoke about how his favorite school was constantly changing because many different schools were recruiting players his dad coached, including Georgia and Alabama.

“The first major college game I was able to go to as a kid was a Florida State game,” Kelly said.

After playing at Auburn and coaching for high school and a few smaller colleges, he began coaching for Tech and enjoyed a successful career there, including winning the ACC Championship in 2009.

The floor was opened to questions. Rotarians asked about Jameis Winston and his recent tangles with the law, the unionization of players and his favorite part about being a recruiter.

“I’ve been on the road everyday except two for the past five weeks recruiting,” Kelly said. “My favorite part is dealing with the high school coaches. My second favorite part is once you get through all the window dressings and sit down with parents one on one and build a relationship with the mothers, fathers and grandparents — that’s the part of recruiting I like.”

Rotarians Mike Harrell and Erwin Harrell worked together to invite Kelly to speak.
“I’ve done programs over the years a few different times at Rotary and I always try to get some FSU flavor in here when I do,” Erwin said.