Virginia senior Reed Kellam grew up making the one hour trip west from Richmond to Charlottesville. His parents Tom and Sarah Kellam graduated from UVA in 1991, seeing the football program’s rise to No. 1 in the nation, and they remained hooked as they brought their kids to the games years later.
When it came time for Reed Kellam to choose a college, he had interest from some smaller schools to play football and had looked into walk-on opportunities at some ACC schools too. In the end, though, those trips to watch the Cavaliers play as a kid left only one favorite.
He joined the Hoos ahead of the 2015 season as a walk-on from Richmond’s Collegiate School.
“Both of my parents came here to UVA – they were class of 1991,” Kellam said. “They were here in the 90’s when they were ranked No. 1 in the nation and good basketball teams. So I grew up coming to games and they’re bringing me along. So, I always had that history of I loved UVA.”
The “50 Virginia Football Thoughts Before Kickoff” series continues.
16 – One Speed Reed
Now in his fifth season with the program, Kellam has played through the transition to a new coaching staff and earned his way on to the field. Like other fan favorite walk-ons like Alex Seals before him, Kellam has carved out a role on special teams. After a redshirt year and a year with no playing time, he’s appeared in 26 straight games for the Hoos.
He always believed he could eventually make his way on the field. At Collegiate, he set the school record with 441 tackles. As a senior, he piled up 135 tackles with 18.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks in 2014. That earned a first team spot on the Virginia Independent Schools’ All-State team for the third straight season.
“Coming in as a walk-on, kind of start at the bottom and really tried to work my way up,” Kellam said. “One thing that’s really been a big part is always self-confidence and believing in myself. I mean I thought I was a pretty good high school football player coming out of high school from Richmond. Really, I just had confidence and always believed in myself, always worked hard, and I’ve worked my way up playing special teams and stuff the last two years.”
Kellam’s teammates have noticed that steady work ethic and focus. In fact, in UVA’s annual jersey number draft, his fellow players elected him to select first. In Bronco Mendenhall’s first three years, now departed running back Jordan Ellis had received the No. 1 selection. Kellam became the heir to that spot.
Kellam stuck with the number he’s had the last two years with the pick. He earned the right to pick a jersey number in Mendenhall’s first season before the road game at Duke and chose No. 45. He didn’t get in that game, but the Hoos won as fellow linebacker Jordan Mack made a big splash with his fumble-forcing sack in the end zone. Kellam said after that, the number is just special to him.
Still, he said he was “shocked” that it was his name that was called for the first selection this year and that it meant a lot to him. Mendenhall said it was a great honor for someone that is exemplary on and off the field.
“The players and the strength coaches have a nickname for Reed – they call him One Speed Reed,” Mendenhall said. “He is just always trying as hard as he can try. It’s not just one dimension in his life. He’s exemplary in every way. If you’re saying what kind of future? It’s a privilege to be around him every day. He is a walk-on player and to get the distinction from a team to be the first selection, that’s pretty remarkable and it speaks volumes about him. He was touched in a way that I think will impact his life forever.”
As for the nickname, Kellam sees that as a sign of respect too. Dwayne Chandler and Shawn Griswold first started to spread the moniker and the team soon adopted it as well. Now there’s enthusiasm around the field whenever it’s time for One Speed Reed to take a turn on special teams.
“It’s just something the strength staff started, Coach DC and Coach Grizz and other guys just caught on to it,” Kellam said. “I’ll take it. I think it just means you’re going hard all the time. I just try to bring other people along when people don’t feel like going hard. Really just trying to mentor, bring people along, and lead by example.”
That’s the work ethic that got him on to special teams and to the top of the jersey draft to start with. It’s something that Kellam says is just part of his personality and who he is. He said he prefers to let his actions do the talking. Plus, he’s self-aware enough to know that he’s not a premium athlete or the “most talented guy in my sports career” as he put it. If you’re not the best player, then you better be working hard and that’s exactly what he does when he’s in uniform.
Much of that, Kellam said, can be attributed to his parents. Tom and Sarah Kellam own their own business in Richmond. Home Places Limited started in 1994 after Tom Kellam had worked for his father-in-law in the home building industry locally and learned the ropes. Per the company’s web site, the company has built more than 200 homes in the communities around the state’s capital. Sarah Kellam is also a licensed realtor and served as the first woman President of the Home Building Association of Richmond in 2012.
Reed Kellam followed his dad to home sites and grew up with the family’s business as his blue print for workmanship.
“I think my dad really had a big influence on me. He’s a home builder so him and my mom run their own company,” Kellam said. “Getting to be with him, he’d always be working hard and I’d be helping him do stuff. I got that hard-working mentality from him. Being around him, he’s passed that on to me. I was always following my dad around. I just love spending time with my parents. They mean so much to me and they’ve helped me grow into the person I am today.”
Kellam continues to pay attention to his surroundings now with the Virginia football program. The lessons that Mendenhall has embedded with the team from ‘earned not given’ to ‘less drama, more work’ to the Thursday’s Heroes program that came with the coaches from BYU are something valuable. Plus, being in the linebacker group with future pros like Micah Kiser, Chris Peace, and potentially others has been its own learning experience as well.
As someone who grew up watching the Hoos play with parents who are graduates of the same University, it’s been a blessing for him to be part of the program’s rebirth.
“I’ve learned so much about football and life and defense just being in that room,” Kellam said. “I just love being with those guys. I just take whatever role I can get. I’m really just trying to help the team. That’s my goal.”
50 Virginia Football Thoughts Before Kickoff
- 50 – Is Being Favored A Good Thing?
- 49 – What Is Bryce Hall’s Ceiling?
- 48 – What It Takes To Win The Coastal
- 47 – Will Tavares Kelly Have A Breakout Season?
- 46 – Defensive Line Reboot
- 45 – Secondary Contenders
- 44 – Stars & Sleepers
- 43 – One For All?
- 42 – Fan Interest Thermometer
- 41 – Workhorse Search
- 40 – More Points
- 39 – First Year Predictions
- 38 – Be Disruptive
- 37 – Ranking The 2019 Schedule
- 36 – Reducing Explosive Touchdowns
- 35 – Grant’s Growth
- 34 – Jana Making His Presence Known
- 33 – Beginning Believers
- 32 – Seizing The Opportunity
- 31 – Red Zone Offense Stalls Again
- 30 – Glaser Focused
- 29 – Secondary Depth Will Be Tested
- 28 – Red Zone Defense Drops But Gains
- 27 – A High Ceiling At Linebacker
- 26 – Will Briggs Make An Impact?
- 25 – Special Teams Headlines
- 24 – Jersey Selection Musings
- 23 – Penalties & Turnovers
- 22 – What Is Hasise Dubois’ Ceiling?
- 21 – The Comeback Kids
- 20 – Armstrong Provides Confidence At QB Beyond 2019
- 19 – Bronco The CEO
- 18 – Familiar Faces
- 17 – Earning Trust