Todd Kelly Jr.: Building a life ‘brick by brick’

Nancy Anderson
Features columnist

University of Tennessee football Volunteer Todd “T.K.” Kelly Jr. sat down with Faith Promise Church’s senior pastor, Dr. Chris Stephens, last week to discuss how he is building an extraordinary life “brick by brick.”

Kelly’s father played defensive end for UT. Todd Jr. explained humbly what it means to be a member of Team 120.

“Team 120 means this is year 120 in football history at UT. Think about all the people who came before me, whether it be my father, Reggie White or Eric Berry … just to think that I’m in that category is pretty amazing.”

University of Tennessee safety Todd Kelly Jr. with Faith Promise Church senior pastor Dr. Chris Stephens. Photo submitted
University of Tennessee safety Todd Kelly Jr. with Faith Promise Church senior pastor Dr. Chris Stephens. Photo submitted

It appears Kelly is fully cognizant of the blessings and responsibilities that come with his position and the importance of using his platform wisely. The junior is on the SEC Academic Honor Roll majoring in biomedical engineering. He speaks passionately of giving back to the community and of honoring Zaevion Dobson, the 15-year-old Fulton High School sophomore who lost his life shielding two girls from gunfire in the Lonsdale community last Dec. 17. Dobson played football under number 24 for the Fulton Falcons.

“I want his (Dobson’s) legacy to live on, so I’m wearing number 24 this season.

“I feel like he’ll be known forever just for the courage he had and knowing what he had to do by standing up for those girls. He’s a hero, very much so.”

Stephens asked Kelly what can be done to make a difference in a racially divided city.

Kelly answered quickly, “Give back to the community.

“Just put yourself out there to play basketball and mentor the kids. A lot of them are talented. They just don’t know what to do with their talent.

“People need to lead them in the right direction. They just want you to show up for them and care for them. That’s all they want. Whatever you do, as long as you show up for the kids, it will make a difference. I promise you that.”

Kelly seems to have been born to live that ethic. His mother Renee Kelly is dean of scholars at Emerald Academy, a public charter school downtown.

When Stephens asked him how coach Jones’ “brick by brick” culture affects him both on and off the field, Kelly broke into a wide grin, rocked back in his seat and said, “Now there’s a big question.”

“‘Brick by brick’ is about each teammate holding the others accountable and sticking together. Think about how cement holds bricks together. When one brick falls away, everything crumbles. It’s all about that foundation.

“We hold each other to a very high standard. I ask them to, I ask my friends and family to also.

“I like to surround myself with high-character people that have the Lord as head of their life first. I feel like the people you surround yourself with – that’s who you’re going to be.

“I am a Christ follower. Everything I do is for Him. When I think about ‘brick by brick,’ I first think about taking one day at a time to focus on the now and what God has planned for me. His bricks are aligned for me.

“Secondly, I think about all those people I love holding me accountable, placing bricks in my life.

“I don’t want to be ordinary. I want to be extraordinary. To do that I have to do extra, be extra … picking up one brick at a time.”

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