By Robert Wilson

Tommy Kelly got better as he got older. In fact, the 11-year NFL defensive lineman didn’t even play football for Provine High until his senior year. The 6-foot-6, 310-pound Kelly went on to become a standout at Hinds Community College and Mississippi State and finished his pro career ranked No. 8 in all-time sacks for the Oakland Raiders.

His son, Tommy Kelly, Jr., is getting better also. The senior linebacker had a career-high 18 tackles – 12 solo tackles and seven tackles for loss – and also ran for a touchdown to lead Provine to a 19-16 upset of Holmes County Central in a MHSAA Class 5A, Region 2 game at Lexington.

For his outstanding performance, Kelly has been named the Junction Deli Metro Jackson Football Player of the Week.

The 6-foot, 225-pound Kelly was a dominating force Friday against Holmes County Central.

“Tommy understands the blocking schemes, he has a nose for the football, and he possesses good closing speed to ball carriers,” Provine coach Tim Wilson said. “The game is beginning to slow down for him, and it is giving him an opportunity to make plays consistently and often. He is getting better every week. Tommy has been a workhorse for us all year. He is very talented and a tough football player. Tommy does it all for us and really gives it all every night. Some college or university is going to get a heck of a football player.”

Kelly also scored on a 1-yard run for Provine’s first TD in the first quarter.

“Tommy is also our red zone back,” Wilson said. “Because of his size and speed, we feel real confident and like our chances in any situation with a decent block from our offensive line.”

Kelly has a team-high 103 tackles (tied for fifth in Mississippi, according to MaxPreps), 22 tackles for loss, in eight games for Provine, which has a 4-4 overall and 2-4 region record this season.

Kelly, a member of the PriorityOne Bank/Mississippi Scoreboard Metro Jackson Preseason Elite 11 Team this season, had a team-high 134 tackles in nine games, an average of almost 15 tackles per game, with 14 tackles for loss, 6 sacks and 1 interception for the 4-6 Rams. His 14.9 tackle average was the second highest in Mississippi last season, according to MaxPreps.

Tommy Kelly Sr., who retired from the NFL in 2015, is Provine’s defensive coordinator and defensive line coach. Kelly’s other son, Jamison, is a freshman defensive back and is third on the team with 51 tackles.

Provine and Callaway are the only Jackson Public Schools teams to have more than one win this season. JPS did not play football in 2020 due to covid.

Provine has an open date this week and plays host to Canton in a region game Oct. 28 at North Jackson Field.