But the place that was instrumental in shaping his life was St. John’s Prep, where he was an undersized backup lineman – No. 62 in your old Eagles program – who had to claw and scrap for every bit of playing time he ever got from coach Fred Glatz.
Bought into the
team concept at SJP
It was on the Danvers parochial school campus where he first learned about camaraderie, teamwork, the right way to play the game and the value of an honest day’s effort. He would enhance and expand his skill set at Assumption College, Division 2 Grand Valley State and Division 1 Central Michigan over the next 23 years before attaining national prominence at Cincinnati and Notre Dame, but his template was St. John’s Prep.
When Kelly returned to the Prep for a speaking engagement last year, he insisted that he wasn’t much of a player for the Eagles, who went 6-2-1 and 7-2, respectively, in his final two seasons there. Glatz paints a different picture of Kelly, who also has a St. John’s Prep helmet in his office at Notre Dame.
“Brian was a guard on offense and middle guard on defense,” noted Glatz, 79, who coached the Eagles from 1967-1983 and got the VIP treatment from a grateful Kelly when he visited Notre Dame for the Michigan State game in 2011. “He was only 5-foot-9 and didn’t weigh much, so he just wasn’t big enough to be a (full-time) starter, but he was a student of the game and part of what we did. Not everyone can be a starter, but he really worked at the game and (eventually) played.”
Current St. John’s Prep coach Jim O’Leary was a young assistant for Glatz in the late 1970s and saw the progress that Kelly made. “Brian wasn’t our best player, but he was a tough, gritty kid. He made the best of his situation,” said O’Leary.