It was a busy and potentially pivotal week for Washington High School senior Jaylin Kelly.
Late Monday night, Kelly tweeted that he had verbally committed to play football at Youngstown State.
The next day, Kelly, who also plays basketball, was recognized before Wash High’s 70-37 win over Fort Cherry.
“It was a little bit busy,” Kelly said. “But it was fun at the same time.”
Kelly, an inside linebacker, helped anchor a Wash High defense that allowed 12.2 points per game. His aggressive pursuit of opposing running backs and quarterbacks was one of the primary factors the Prexies finished 12-1, won the Class AA Interstate Conference title – the program’s first since 2001 – and reached the WPIAL final at Heinz Field.
He made 114 tackles and had eight sacks. Kelly (6-2, 235) also forced five fumbles, while adding a fumble recovery and an interception.
Kelly chose Youngstown State over offers from Delaware, Eastern Michigan, New Hampshire and Delaware.
“I’m excited for him,” Prexies coach Mike Bosnic said. “I think it’s a great place, and I think he’ll do really well there.”
Youngstown State is a Football Championship Subdivision program (formerly NCAA Division I-AA) and competes in the Missouri Valley Football Conference, finishing 4-4, 7-4 last season.
The Penguins, who won four national championships under former Ohio State coach Jim Tressel in the 1990s, have failed to finish above .500 only four times in the past 29 years.
“I think it’s a great opportunity for him,” said Bosnic, who played college football at Pitt. “It’s big-time football. They have a great facility, and they have a big following and alumni base.
“They have an Under Armour contract. They have a great stadium. They just built an indoor practice facility. It’s first-class.”
The practice facility Bosnic was referring to is called the Watson and Tressel Training Site and opened in 2011, the result of a 2007 donation totaling $1 million.
It was also one of the primary reasons Kelly chose Youngstown State after visiting the campus last weekend, meeting with coaches and players and touring the facilities.
“I knew I liked it because I liked the coaches before I went,” said Kelly, who was chosen to play in the Big 33 All-Star Game. “I hung out with the players a little bit, and I just felt comfortable there.
“They’re used to winning games. They have a good tradition. I’m going to join them and hopefully help them win more.”
One strange recruiting twist happened during Pitt’s home-opener this season, when Kelly was invited by the Panthers to watch a game against Youngstown State.
But after Pitt suffered a 31-17 loss to the Penguins, Youngstown State’s stock immediately jumped in Kelly’s mind. Five months later, Kelly, who had an offer from Youngstown State at the time, committed to the other side.
“I got invited from Pitt, but I knew Youngstown offered me already, so I wanted to check them out, too,” said Kelly, a three-year starter and two-year captain on the basketball team who’s averaging around nine points per game. “I was really impressed with how they played. I knew they were good. That was just a plus them beating Pitt.”