Duo’s Time has Come

They were supposed to have been together for two years now. They were supposed to be two of the most dominant speed rush ends not only in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, not only in Division I-AA, but in the country.

Instead, right end Jeff Green and left end Sean Kelly will be playing only their fourth game together on Saturday.

Juniors Green and Kelly, both at 6-foot-2 are built more like linebackers than defensive ends. They certainly have linebacker speed, which makes this tandem so formidable coming off the corners.

“We’re both very quick and very fast,” Green said. “When a team has one speed [pass] rusher, the offense can double team him. We have two. You can’t double team both of us.”

Both were recruited in 2000, but Kelly red-shirted his freshman season. When the two practiced together, coaches saw what a handful they could be for opposing offensive lines. “They have a sundry of moves to get to the quarterback,” coach Billy Joe said during the summer. “They are the best [pair of defensive ends] I’ve had since my tenure here at FAMU. They’re very talented.”

But it all came to a halt in 2001 when Green went down with a torn medial collateral ligament. While it didn’t require surgery, the injury sidelined him the entire season.

“Jeff and I have a bond, so when he went down, I was hurting for him,” Kelly said. “I just told myself to go out and have the best season I can for him.”

So Kelly went on without his pass-rushing partner and put together an award-winning year. By registering 38 tackles, 18 for loss, and 13 sacks, he earned All-MEAC and All-American honors.

Then came 2002, and once again, both players were looking very good. There was a heightened level of intensity with Miami first on the schedule. When the season came around, both players were ready to go.

Until it happened again.

Another torn ligament. Another season-ending injury. But this time, it was Kelly’s turn.

So, like Kelly, Green played the 2002 season without his speed rush partner. He also had a great season recording 54 tackles, 23 for loss, seven sacks, and first-team All-MEAC honors.

“Everything happens for a reason,” Kelly said. “Maybe we weren’t meant to play together until this year. But believe me, we have a chip on our shoulder.”

This year, Green and Kelly will try to do together what they have both done separately.

“We have the potential to be one of the best duos in the country,” Green said. “But potential is nothing; performance is everything. We have to make it happen on the field.”

The two got off to a slow start in the season opener against Alabama State. Green registered five tackles, and Kelly only had four. Neither recorded a sack. Both bounced back last week against Morgan State. They put constant pressure on the quarterback and held one of the best scoring teams in the MEAC to seven points.

There are 10 more games for the duo to show what they’re capable of. Considering what they have been through the past two years, just playing together in those 10 games will be an accomplishment.

Kevin Fair can be reached at kfair1@mail.com.