Seneca Valley High School quarterback Chris Kelley, The Post's All-Met offensive player of the year this fall, yesterday gave an oral commitment to accept a football scholarship to the University of Maryland.
Kelley, a two-time All-Met, passed for 1,645 yards and 29 touchdowns and rushed for 1,278 yards and 16 touchdowns this past season. In two seasons as the Screaming Eagles' starting quarterback, Kelley was 26-0 and accounted for 95 touchdowns.
Kelley, who is 6 feet 2 and weighs 205 pounds, made an official visit to Maryland earlier this month, then visited Nebraska last weekend. After returning from Nebraska, Kelley met with his parents and came to a decision Tuesday night. Kelley informed Maryland Coach Ron Vanderlinden of his decision yesterday when Vanderlinden and assistant coach Mike Gundy visited Kelley's Germantown home.
"I knew I had to do it--staying here and playing football in my home state where everybody knows who I am," said Kelley, who still must meet the NCAA's minimum academic standards for incoming freshmen to accept athletic scholarships. "I think I can make a difference."
After telling Vanderlinden of his intentions, Kelley said he hugged Vanderlinden and Gundy.
NCAA rules prohibit Vanderlinden from commenting on prospective recruits until they sign a national letter-of-intent. The signing period for high school seniors to accept football scholarships begins Feb. 2.
"He is the best I have ever seen--he has the combination of athletic ability, speed, power and tenacity," Seneca Valley Coach Terry Changuris said. "That is what makes him so special. There are a lot of people who are big and strong, but he also has grace."
After rushing for 2,111 yards and passing for 3,657 yards in his high school career, Kelley was one of the area's most heavily recruited players in recent years. He had planned visits to South Carolina, Auburn and Arkansas, but canceled those after deciding he wanted to be closer to home.
Kelley is 2-0 as a starting quarterback at Maryland's Byrd Stadium, where the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association holds its annual championship games. Seneca Valley completed its third consecutive 13-0 season with a 41-0 victory over Thomas Stone in the Maryland 3A championship on Nov. 27. In that game, Kelley threw three touchdown passes and ran for another touchdown.
His performance in that game was impressive even to those who were familiar with Kelley's ability. Sherwood High Coach Bob Milloy, who has been a head coach in the Washington area for 30 years, said he was most impressed when Kelley went in as a safety in goal-line situations and had three tackles in five plays.
"And you know he doesn't work that much on defense," said Milloy, noting that he thinks Kelley is one of the toughest high school players he has ever seen. "He is just a player."
Kelley, the 12th known commitment for the Terrapins' recruiting class, is perhaps the most high-profile recruit since Vanderlinden arrived in December 1996. Given Kelley's success locally--Seneca Valley's 39-game winning streak is the longest active streak in the area--and the number of top programs that had offered Kelley scholarships, there was pressure on Maryland to land Kelley.
Maryland returns its top two quarterbacks from this past season, redshirt freshman Calvin McCall, the incumbent starter, and freshman Latrez Harrison. According to Kelley, Vanderlinden said Kelley will have a chance to compete for the starting position.
"It just matters how I react--it is a new system and it is definitely a different level," Kelley said. "I think I have a good chance. I just want to go in and work as hard as I can in the offseason and try to get it. . . . I'm ready to rock and roll."