Dream College Vanderbilt
Hobbies: Football, family, weightlifting and getting better.
Individual role: The geeky guy
Quote from Kelly: “What I have seen, especially with Dakori and Chance is that their aggression levels have gotten better. For lack of a better word, they care more about their job this year. [Dakori] is getting better every week.”
Dream college: LSU willing to go Juco
Hobbies: Playing the game, riding the four-wheeler, being outside
Quote from Kelly: “He was a surprise to me and I told him I thought he was gonna come over with an attitude because they moved him from defense to offense and that he wouldn’t want to do it, but he came in and immediately he was dominant. Very athletic. I didn’t think he was gonna be good enough, but he proved me wrong.”
Favorite College: Florida State
Hobbies: Play 2K
Quote from Kelly: “He’s getting better every week.”
Favorite College: Kennesaw/Georgia Southern
Hobbies: Listening to music, hanging with his brothers.
Role: Being coachable
Quote from Kelly: “Chance is getting better every week. He’s tremendously better this year than he was last season. Way better.”
Favorite College: TCU
Hobbies: Hanging with his boys.
Quote from Kelly: “We’re trying to get him more aggressive. We’re trying to get him to the point where he’s dominant and we don’t have to make him angry.”
Favorite College: University of Oregon
Hobbies: Staying in his books and keeping up his grades.
Role: Silent killer
Quote from Kelly: “Jordan, that dude to me, is a phenom. Because he is really 210 pounds and every week I make it a point to tell our head coach every week that he’s blocking somebody that’s supposed to go D-1 and he’s dominating. They’re not getting sacks on him, they’re not driving him off the ball, putting him in the backfield – he’s doing his job at 210 pounds.”
Favorite college: UGA/FSU/LSU
Hobbies: Being outside, school work and hanging with his friends.
Role: Leading the o-line
Quote from Kelly: “He’s better than he was last year. \Out of everybody on our offensive line Alex knows exactly – not just what the offensive line is supposed to do – he understands the offense. He’s like Ray-J ( Newton QB Romario Johnson) just snapping the ball. So he actually knows everything. He can see the field, he understands if they're in a certain coverage, what they’re supposed to do up front, how they ‘gon do it up front and he directs our protections. Sometimes he overthinks a little bit, but I had that curse too when I was playing.”
Romario Johnson. Kurt Taylor Jr. Deandre Huff. Jeremiah Holloman. Artice Hobbs. Augustus Murray. All names of some of Newton’s best skill position players, and by now, names that you likely know. But do you know, Lewis Naza, Dakori West, Jordan Reed, Chance Harrison, Javon Porteous-Punch, Karlen Singleton and Alex Jacobs? They make up Newton’s undersized offensive line that has performed exceptionally well, helping to create big play opportunities for the Rams’ skill players.
The Rams are 6-1 (2-0 Region 2-AAAAAA) in large part because of the how good the offensive line has been. With their dominance Newton has rushed for 1,300 yards, passed for 1,450 and third-year head coach Terrance Banks is on pace to have his first 1,000-yard rusher. Not to mention, Johnson has been sacked just three times this year. Those are elite numbers.
Newton’s offensive line has been great for many reasons, with technique, brotherhood and the ability to execute being at the top of the list, but it starts with former NFL player and current Rams’ offensive line coach/offensive coordinator, Lewis Kelly.
“He has done a wonderful job with them. For me this is his second year with them. Because they’ve had the same coach probably for the first time ever two years in a row I think that’s made a huge difference in why they’re playing so well,” Banks said about Kelly.
“Having a coach that’s had collegiate experience where most people don’t even make it and then going to the NFL, it definitely helps,” West, starting offensive guard for Newton, said.
The majority of Newton’s offensive line weighs less than 250 pounds, with maybe one weighing in at the more ideal 275 or more.
“I think we’ve played some teams that have big defensive lineman. We’re getting ready to face a team that has a huge defensive front, and we don’t have at Newton five 275- or 300-pound lineman,” Banks said. “We don’t have the same type of lineman that schools such is Peachtree Ridge, Mill Creek and Grayson have. Our kids have a lot of fight in them and they’re playing much bigger than their stature.”
“We watch film and whatever we focus on that week, that’s what we get done and they add to what we did before,” Kelly said. “I got guys that’s 210, 220, 216, and they’re moving people. Doing what average lines of 275, 285 do. It’s just a tribute to them and their hard work in the weight room in the mornings and this summer, and just listening to what I tell them.”
Kelly has established a mentality at Newton. It began in his first year when he gave them two chains. One chain is smaller and the other is heavy, it represents leadership and the sometimes heavy burden that comes with it. Each week the players vote on which player gets the smaller chain, which goes to the player who is an inspiration to the entire line that week. The heavier chain is Kelly’s. He awards it to the guy who may not necessarily be the best player that week, but one who he led the team.
“The chain is what we stand for basically,” Jacobs said. “It symbolizes what we are.”
The lineman will wear the chains pre-game, run through the tunnel with them and usually somebody has them on the sideline during the game. Kelly says the chain isn’t just an award, it’s a mentality. It’s symbolic of the group working together as one and the mentality of not breaking the chain.
“Nobody walks through the line. It’s a mentality. If you don’t let anybody come through your line when we’re just standing there, we definitely won’t let anybody come through when we playing so it’s a mindset,” Kelly said.
Banks tried to walk through the line earlier during Newton’s bye week, but even then the Rams wouldn’t let him through.
“We’re five people working as a unit,” Kelly said. “When one of us breaks down then the whole thing breaks down. So we are one link. One chain. We’re only as strong as our weakest link.”
“They’re playing together. They understand what they’re supposed to do and how they’re supposed to do it and they take great pride in not allowing anybody to come through their line or break the chain,” Banks said. “It’s been a pleasure to see them work. You won’t see a lot of these kids at the next level D-1 because they don’t have the size, but the heart and passion they have will serve them success wherever they’re playing football at in the future.”
The linemen have created a strong bond together. They’re like brothers. They hang out all the time, talk with each other in a group message, like brothers they push each other’s buttons, but most importantly they have each other’s back.
“We have two guys on the offensive who are three-year starters. You have one guy who is a two-year starter and you have two others who have played or been around. I think they gave gelled to a point that has a tight cohesiveness,” Banks said.
With the chains and the success of the offensive line, Kelly has started a new tradition that he hopes is everlasting at Newton. Although, only about five offensive lineman make up the starting group, the unit consists of about seven or eight players that all have made a significant impact because they’re all a part of the chain.
“For what they do right now...for their size, they-re one of the best lines in our region for their size,” Kelly said. “If they were bigger, we probably wouldn’t throw the ball. If they were bigger, if they were like 285/275 each we probably wouldn’t throw the ball because we would run over people. They work hard they get after it and hopefully in December their hard work will pay off.”