Over the next three days, USA TODAY High School Sports will name the American Family Insurance ALL-USA Coach of the Year, Offensive and Defensive Players of the Year and First Team Offense and Defense for football, with the ALL-USA State teams to follow next week.
We begin with ALL-USA Coach of the Year Kevin Kelley of Pulaski of Academy (Little Rock, Ark.).KEVIN KELLEY
School: Pulaski Academy (Little Rock, Ark.).
Details: Innovative coach, using an offense that doesn’t punt and has frequent rugby-style laterals, won his third consecutive 5A state title and posted a 13-1 record. His overall record is 165-25-1 in 14 years as Pulaski’s head coach. His teams have made it to the state semifinals in 12 of those seasons and have won six state titles in eight attempts.
Why more coaches don’t adopt my methods: It’s simply risk aversion. People are scared they will have to suffer ridicule by fans, players and the media.
Why I tried a no-punt offense: We had started looking for something different. We couldn’t make it to the championship game. Then, trying something new was like a little kid who’s scared of ice cream. Once you try it, you’re almost starving and you can’t get enough.
My best friend would describe me as: Probably passionate and competitive and willing to do anything for people he believes in.
Biggest thing I learned this year: I’m constantly trying to learn. Honestly, probably what I learned is to inspire others to take ownership in a program or take ownership in something. I think I learned to do that a lot better this year.
Fourth-and-20 with two minutes left, so I: Some of it depends on what the defense has been doing. What you tend to see are defensive backs guarding the first-down marker. That means to me they’re digging their heels in at the 20-yard point. We like to run somebody in front of those guys and then sneak someone past them. Sometimes it’s a lot easier to pass the ball 35 yards than 20.
Cartoon character that describes me: Tazmanian Devil.
Biggest accomplishment at Pulaski Academy: Probably that I’ve been here for 20 years (his first six as an assistant). When I first came, I thought there was no way I would be here 20 years. I have some out-there ideas. People wear out their welcome when they’re like that.
I don’t like to: Stand in line.
Favorites, food, movie, and book: Pizza, “A Few Good Men” and then a tie between “David and Goliath” by Malcolm Gladwell and “Think Like a Freak: The Authors of Freakonomics Offer to Retrain Your Brain” by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner.
Individual who inspired me: My mom. She passed a couple of years ago. For a long time growing up, she was a single mom who had to raise my sisters and I. She had to teach me about hard work and persistence. She was an out-of-box thinker. Nobody in my family had graduated from college. She changed that for me.
Hollywood actor who could play my life story: The Rock or the late Paul Walker.
Trait a successful coach needs: Leadership and getting people to buy in. Not enough coaches get people to buy in.
Silliest thing I’ve had a college recruiter say: I don’t have to name who it is, right? One offered to meet me at a casino and stake my card counting.
BLASTS FROM THE PAST
Click the link below to view the recent ALL-USA Coaches of the Year: