(Posted Feb. 10, 2020)
By Theresa Hennis, Staff Writer
It has been a good year for Madison-Plains High School football player, Chase Kelly.
Earlier this winter, Kelly earned the Burlsworth Character Award, a national award that recognizes character and sportsmanship, and on Feb. 5 he officially committed to play football at Ohio Wesleyan University.
The Burlsworth Character Award honors the memory of Brandon Burlsworth, a walk-on at the University of Arkansas who earned All-American status in 1998 and was the first football player in the university’s history to earn a master’s degree before he played his last game. The Indianapolis Colts selected Burlsworth as the 63rd overall pick in the 1999 NFL draft. Tragically, he was killed in a head-on automobile collision just 11 days after the draft.
Burlsworth’s legacy is preserved through academic and athletic scholarships, a foundation that provides free eye care to underprivileged children, a trophy that celebrates the achievements of walk-on athletes, and the Character Award, which was opened up to high school athletes across the country this year after being given out exclusively in Arkansas for the past 11 years.
“I nominated Chase for the (Character Award) because he’s a great leader, and he takes everything seriously and participates in everything from fundraisers to volunteering through his 4-H club,” said Golden Eagles Head Coach Jason Hunt. “Some people say they want to be a leader and then others, like Chase, show they’re a leader by putting in the hard work of a leader.”
Kelly played as a three-year starter for Madison-Plains. He was an offensive lineman as a freshman, defensive end as a sophomore and junior, and linebacker as a senior. His coaches moved him to linebacker for his senior year because he was looking to play at the college level.
At Ohio Wesleyan, Kelly plans to major in health and human kinetics, a comprehensive study and practice of human movement and exercise and its impact on health and physical performance.
About his accomplishments and college plans, Kelly said, “It will help me to do the things I love, which are playing football and helping people with physical therapy.”
Kelly’s parents are proud of the work he has put in to achieve his dreams.
“He’s played football since kindergarten, and he’s worked hard over the years which just goes to show that hard work pays off,” said Kelly’s father, Rich.
“He works100 percent on everything, on and off the field and in everything he does,” said his mother, Amanda.
Kelly chose Ohio Wesleyan for the coaching staff’s direct approach and the smaller campus.
“They actually made the effort to talk to me right away and didn’t play any of the recruiting games, and the campus has a small, home-like feeling to me,” he said.