by Kristin Thurman
There was never a doubt in Reed Kellam’s mind where he wanted to go to college. The son of two Virginia graduates, and growing up about 70 miles east of Charlottesville, Kellam knew that attending UVA was his dream.
“Both my mom and dad went here,” Kellam said. “They were class of 1991. They were here in the prime of athletics and they passed the pride of UVA onto me. It’s been cool to try and bring the program back to that standard. We were pretty big fans growing up. I’m from Richmond so it’s right down the road. Anytime we could make it to a football or basketball game we’d always make the trip up.”
It wasn’t until he got to high school that Kellam really realized what it would take to play football for the Cavaliers.
“I always said growing up that I wanted to play football or basketball for UVA, but I never realized all of the work that needed to go into that,” Kellam said. “When I got into high school I started to think okay If I work really hard there’s a chance that I could go and play football at UVA.”
The journey to the playing field was not an easy one for Kellam, but an experience that he will take with him for the rest of his life.
“It was an awesome experience,” Kellam said. “I talked about growing up and wanting to come here and play football, so I’ve just been really humbled and thankful to be part of the team. Coming in as a walk on, you start at the bottom. You’re not giving anything. To be able to work my way up means a lot to me. Being a walk-on has helped me gain confidence and helped me believe in myself. I always thought I was a really good high school football player and that I could hang with these guys. I just kept believing in myself and telling myself I could do it and I think that’s really helped me.”
Luckily, he had a great group of veterans that had gone through the process before him.
“Some older guys like Lester Coleman, Joe Spazziani, Ben Hogg, Jackson Mateo all helped me along the way,” Kellam said. “Just guys that have walked on previously and been successful really helped me out and took me under their wing my first few years. They really helped me develop and now I’m an older guy trying to do the same for other people.”
Prior to this season, Kellam was voted by his teammates to be the first player to pick a number. Kellam’s journey from walk-on to now is one he attributes to what head coach Bronco Mendenhall has done with this program.
“I think we really take pride in it [being a walk-on] and it’s an awesome thing,” Kellam said. “I think coach Mendenhall really stresses the walk-on program and it’s a really strong aspect about this program. If you’re able to compete and do things right, then I think you can play and contribute to the team. It’s really powerful to see all of the walk –on guys playing this year and it’s really inspiring to those younger guys that if they keep working it could pay off in the end.”
This year Kellam has taken on yet another challenge, as he is on headset with the defensive coaches in the coaching booth. A role that requires him to be able to communicate between the coaches and players on the field.
“It’s been awesome,” Kellam said. “Getting to hear the defensive staff, and how they see something and make adjustments, it’s been really cool being a player thinking about what those coaches are thinking during different situations during a game and how they’re communicating. It gives me more respect for the coaches, and I have a greater perspective and can see things in a different lens that maybe I wasn’t able to as a player. As a player you’re caught in the moment and you don’t really see offensively how they’re reacting to what we’re doing defensively so seeing that and telling the guys what you see from the sidelines.”
Through all that Kellam has been through with the football program, his love for the school has only grown.
“I love this school so much, it’s hard to even put into words how much this program means to me,” Kellam said. “Talking with guys like Lester and Joe, it just means so much to be a part of this program and turning it around. We’ll be coming back for games and in the next few years it’ll be fun to see where the program goes and say we were the turning point is really special.”
Not only will Kellam enjoy watching the program continue to grow, but he has been able to see his own personal growth through these last five years. Everything that he has been through and the friends that he has made will be there forever.
“It’s crazy to think how I’ve grown both football-wise and matured as a football player with knowledge and strength and then also just as a person,” Kellam said. “I think I’ve grown in so many ways. It’s hard to even think about. I look at some of these first years and think they’ve got such a long way and think about what I’ve learned from coach Mendenhall about strategy and teamwork and being a part of a team. It’s been a really fun experience and something I’ll have for the rest of my life.”