By Rick Peterson – Topeka Capital-Journal
Carlos Kelly has been proud to be an assistant football coach at three different city high schools for more than two decades.
But Kelly always longed for the opportunity to run his own program, a dream that will come true this fall after Kelly, 45, was approved Thursday night by the Topeka USD 501 school board as Topeka High’s new head coach.
Kelly, who has served as the Trojans’ special teams coordinator and defensive backs coach the past three seasons, takes over for highly successful Topeka High coach Walt Alexander, who stepped down after 14 seasons, including a 10-2 record last fall.
“I’ve always wanted to be a head coach and wanted to go somewhere where I could finally put my own stamp on a program,″ Kelly said. “That is something I’ve always kind of looked forward to.″
Before going to Topeka High, Kelly served 10 seasons at his alma mater, Highland Park, and eight seasons at Washburn Rural.
Kelly, who also was a quarterback, assistant coach and head coach for the Kansas Koyotes semi-pro team, said all of his previous jobs as an assistant have prepared him to be a head coach.
“I’ve always tried to be that assistant that tried to do things the right way and tried to do the best I could for my head coach,” he said. “I always tried to do everything that was expected and needed from an assistant, from being a coordinator to being a position coach. I always took great pride in following and taking guidance while supporting the head coach wherever I was.″
Kelly feels that being familiar with his players at Topeka High will be a benefit moving forward.
“Any time a head coach comes in and they’re already within the system, they kind of already have a good feel for the kids,″ Kelly said. “I’ve known a lot of these players from way before they even started playing football.
“I have a relationship with some of their uncles, parents, dads and maybe even have a relationship with some of their grandparents, and knowing them personally not only as a player but in their normal lives helps a lot.″
Kelly knows he faces a tough task taking over for Alexander, who led the Trojans to the Class 6A semifinals last fall and posted a 27-6 three-year run that included six playoff wins.
Topeka High had suffered through 23 of 24 losing seasons and 11 straight when Alexander arrived in 2006, but the Trojans have posted winning records the past eight seasons and 10 in the last 11 years.
“Coach Alexander (89-50) did a great job of starting the program when he first took over and his staff that was with him also did a great job of helping build this,” Kelly said. “We had a great staff and guys who stayed together. It was a long-tenured staff.
“They had the mindset of work hard and be the best you can be and always wanting to be a better football player. That’s been kind of a trademark here at Topeka High.″
Kelly said he is excited to get started in his new position.
“We’re really eager to get going, the players, too,″ Kelly said. “Every day somebody’s asking me what’s going on and wondering when we’re getting started. What are we doing after spring break? What are we doing before spring break? We’re ready to go.″
Website Editor’s Note: Kelly is a JAG-K Career Specialist at Topeka High.