LAUREL – Steve Kelly and his son, Michael, have always been close.
From the time Steve was a graduate assistant at Southern Miss under Jeff Bower, and Michael – as a 7-year-old – regularly helped his father break down game film, a bond was formed very early on.
So when Michael reached a crossroads in his life, where he had to decide between a career in banking and one in football, he only hesitated briefly.
“When I was a little kid, I saw my dad doing what he loved doing,” Michael said. “From that moment, I didn’t want to do anything else.”
Now, the coaches Kelly are set to begin their first season together as assistant coaches at Laurel High. Michael is in his second year as linebackers coach for the Golden Tornadoes, while this season will mark Steve’s first at Laurel, where he will serve as the secondary coach.
Even though this will be the first time the father-son duo has worked on the same coaching staff as position coaches, Steve and Michael aren’t strangers on the sidelines.
Steve was head coach at Winston Academy for Michael’s junior and senior seasons there, and the younger Kelly was an intern on the same Newton County staff his father served as the defensive coordinator.
“I knew at an early age that football was a part of him,” Steve said. “He’s the most disciplined young man I’ve ever been around, and I’m not just saying that because he’s my son.”
Over the years, Steve and Michael have grown accustomed to each others’ style and mentality, which has translated to success on game day.
“We know each other so well, and we’re on the same page, which definitely helps,” Michael said.
“We’ve done our scheme for a long time,” Steve said. “He knows the parts I know, and I know where his people ought to be. It kind of works hand-in-hand.”
But that doesn’t mean there aren’t times when things get a little chippy.
“People think we argue, but we never argue,” Michael explained. “We’ll disagree from time to time, but we never throw darts at each other.”
And anything that might have carried over from the football field to the house was nixed a long time ago.
“We never had that problem – mama put a stop to that real quick,” Michael said. “She told him, ‘Coach stays across the road. When you come home, daddy lives here.'”
As for the future, Michael said he’d love to continue coaching with his father as long as Steve is willing.
“If there’s anything I could do for my dad for all he’s given me, I’d like for him to work with me if I get a head coaching opportunity. I would love to see that happen,” Michael said. “I don’t know if he’ll still be coaching by the time that happens. But if he’s not, I still know where I’ll be on Friday night and Saturday mornings.”