It is the first time it has ever happened in NFL history, two brothers are predicted to go in the first two picks of the 2031 NFL Draft.
Quarterback Nathan Joseph Kelly out of Texas A&M is in the mold of NFL legend Brett Favre. He is coming out as a senior and standout wide receiver Isaiah James Kelly has decided to come out early from Texas Tech after scouts have been saying he reminds them of Patriots’ tough slot receiver, Julian Edelman who made the greatest clutch catch in Super Bowl history.
This is the dream of boys everywhere. This is also the dream of two boys in Minnesota, Nathan (12) and his brother Isaiah (11). They are not just any two boys either – – they are my sons.
Is their dream possible? They both have told me they think it is.
Do I think it is possible? I know it is, because I have done it.
I didn’t do it as a player, but I did it as a scout, when I was hired by Bill Parcells and the New York Jets after my interview came down to me sitting across from Bill Belichick and convincing him to hire me. Out of nowhere – – and with no formal football background, I did it and as a drop out from a small community college. I beat out a stack of Ivy League resumes to do it. Both of these boys have a dad who has proven the word impossible, is just a word in the dictionary. I, like them, also grew up in a small town in Minnesota dreaming of one day making it into the NFL.
If I could do it – – they can do it.
Both of them sent me this video of them passing and catching the ball.
Nathan is this unorthodox fiery gunslinger. He is ultra competitive and he has the determination of a bull. His favorite player in the league is QB Patrick Mahomes of the Kansas City Chiefs.
Isaiah puts everything he has into catching everything thrown in his direction and he shows an incredibly high amount of energy running the routes as his brother goes into the hurry up offense. Isaiah is relentless. The way he runs routes is the way he has run through life. His favorite player in the league is receiver Justin Jefferson of the Minnesota Vikings.
Both of these boys have overcome the odds to get to where they are now, and both of these boys will overcome whatever the odds are to get to where they want to go in life.
Prior to being born, an 11-year-old troubled boy threatened to punch Nathan’s mother in the stomach when she was pregnant with him “so she would lose the baby,” and Isaiah had medical issues that would drive fear deep into any parent’s soul.
At two years old, Isaiah woke up in a full blown seizure with his eyes rolled back into his head. Unresponsive, he had to be rushed by ambulance to the hospital where it took medical personnel 45-minutes to stop his seizure. The doctor walked into his hospital room and told his mother and me news no parent ever wants to hear. “Your son has not one, not two, but three rare conditions, one condition is rare, two of them together is even more rare and three of these conditions together is virtually unheard of,” the doctor told us. “First, Isaiah does not have this thing that connects the two sides of his brain, so the two sides cannot communicate with each other. Next, he has an enlarged ventricle in the back left side of his brain and third, he has a brain tumor, ” said the doctor. “Your son is just really unlucky.”
At that exact moment those words left his doctor’s mouth, the Holy Spirit said to me internally, “No, this is the ultimate opportunity for God’s glory.”
Over the next year, Isaiah had 350 seizures and he underwent two major brain surgeries. One of his surgeries was to delicately remove his brain tumor that was lodged up against a major artery. The other, to surgically install a shunt in his head to drain the excess spinal fluid. About an inch and a half of spinal fluid had built up on his brain according to x-rays. We were told this used to be a fatal condition for people before the invention of this shunt they installed by drilling through his skull to place and they ran a tube from his brain down to his belly to drain the excess spinal fluid.
I will never forget the night of his brain surgery to remove the tumor, he had this big question mark shaped band-aid on the side of his head to cover the incision where his wild blonde hair normally grew. He was in surgery for hours, but by nighttime, everyone was amazed he was sitting up in his hospital bed eating an ice cream cone and being his usual self. The kid is resilient.
By the grace of God alone, Isaiah is healed to this day. He is a healthy, funny, witty and smart boy who has and continues to defy the odds. He is also a fierce competitor too – – it comes out when he is catching the football and it comes out when he plays games with me on his iPhone.
Both of these boys love football (imagine that)! Only instead of liking the Redskins, the team I grew up loving (now the Washington Football Team), they both cheer on the Minnesota Vikings. Needless to say, we go back and forth about that a lot, especially when Isaiah sends me his “power rankings,” Washington is always ranked #32.
The apple truly does not fall far from the tree.
As a young Redskins fan, I used to go to the H.H.H. Metrodome in Minneapolis when my team was playing the Vikings dressed from head to toe in Redskins gear, complete with some warpaint on my face. There were 58,000 dressed in purple and gold and then there was me with my big foam Redskins #1 hand.
What goes around….
These two boys have real potential and I am not the only one who sees it either. Current Dallas Cowboys College Scouting Director Lionel Vital who was part of the team when they selected receiver Ceedee Lamb in the 2020 NFL Draft. Vital holds four Super Bowl rings and has sat at the decision making table with many of the most successful men in the National Football League over the past 30 years with the Browns, Jets, Patriots, Ravens, Falcons and Cowboys. Vital was in New England the day the Patriots selected QB Tom Brady. These are Vital’s words about Nathan and Isaiah when he watched their video: :
“Nathan did a nice job of putting the ball on the money. Good accurate throws. Good drive on the ball. Good job taking charge out there. Way to stand tall and throw the ball. Isaiah great effort. Good job of going down for the ball and making the tough catch. Good routes. Excellent competitor. Both of you play like you love it, that is so nice to see!”
Former pro QB Jeff Loots also looked at the video and commented specifically on Nathan since that is the position he played. Loots who is currently the QB coach at Centennial High School in Minnesota, is also listed on the 2022 College Hall of Fame ballot, threw for 10,116 yards during his college career and 102 touchdowns at Southwest Minnesota State University:
“I think he throws the ball really well for being so young,” said Loots “He does a really good job of stepping at his target and transferring his weight properly. He shows really good accuracy as well. All of us have little things to work on and his is to not drop the ball down so low in his wind up. Have him try to keep the ball up around chest level with his throwing motion. Tell him to keep working hard and he can go a long way.”
Interestingly enough, this is also something Vital pointed out Nathan needs to work on, which is his release point. He suggested Nathan start by throwing the ball only five yards, but at a higher release point.
There is always something to work on when it comes to lofty dreams as these two boys have. I know for me, I started scouting when I was 17 grinding through tape in my bedroom and writing scouting reports, seven years before I got the call from the Jets.
Besides being brothers these two also share similar philosophies about the game they love and a desire to inspire other kids out there too.
“I don’t know how I got into football or why? Maybe it’s the hard work you have to put in. Maybe it’s just for the love of the game,” said Nathan. “I don’t know why I like it or what got me into it, but every time I have a football in my hands I feel like anything is possible. You may think it will never happen for you, then it won’t, but if you have the drive and the passion and never say you can’t and just keep trying and keep going no matter how hard it gets, it will be worth it, I promise you.”
Isaiah said, “I love football. My dream is to be a wide receiver. I love catching touchdowns. All you need is the passion and to believe anything is possible.”
Two boys who carry the NFL dream in their hearts. Two boys who have overcome a lot of adversity in their early years. Two dreams that are best said in their own words.
Because of circumstances we do not get much chance to spend much time together since their mother and I divorced. The three of us don’t get to be like a lot of dads out there to play catch in the backyard or just hang out and watch the games together that we love and I am sorry about that. However, that does not change who I am – – nor does it change who they are or the dreams God has given to them for His Glory.
These are my words to you guys I always want you to hang onto:
Nathan and Isaiah, I love you and I am proud of both of you.
As a professional football talent evaluator: I once was your age dreaming of one day being in the National Football League. Hardly anyone except your Great Grandma Lucille Brekhus even thought it was possible. When I told my dad (your Grandpa Kelly) I wanted to be an NFL scout as a teenager, he came at me and screamed at me at the top of his lungs, angry as hell, “Get your head out of the damn clouds and pick a real job!” However, nothing ever deterred me. Not him – – not the kids in school – – nobody could stop me. I wanted it too much. I knew I could do it – – and the fire – – wow that fire burned within me to do it. It makes me damn proud to hear you boys say the things you have said. I believe in you Nathan. I believe in you Isaiah. No matter what your path is, or where your path takes you – – it is your path. I know you both can do it. Even if your paths take you in unexpected directions, do not get discouraged by that. Once upon a time, even Hall of Fame QB Kurt Warner was bagging groceries trying to get a tryout. I know you both have what it takes. How do I know that – – for one, I have evaluated a lot of NFL players over the past thirty years and I know what it takes to play at the highest level. I know the traits, characteristics and intangibles that are necessary. I have seen all the best quarterbacks and all the best receivers play in the NFL. For two, the same thing that burns inside the both of you, is inside of me. I’ve gotten that call – – and you both are going to get that call too.
Don’t ever give up.
Daniel Kelly is a former NFL scout with the New York Jets. He was hired on the regime which featured Bill Parcells, Bill Belichick, Scott Pioli, Mike Tannenbaum, and Dick Haley. He currently writes for Sports Illustrated Detroit Lions and he is a contributing evaluator for Draft Diamonds. For more information about him visit his website at whateverittakesbook.com. He can be followed on Twitter @danielkellybook and his Facebook page is WHATEVER IT TAKES NFL TALK.