FORT WAYNE – It was one of those relaxed, early practices last year when quarterback Josh Miller saw the future of Saint Francis receiving.
I remember the first summer he came in, and he made a spectacular, one-handed catch, Miller said. I was like, This kids going to be good.
The kid is Akeim Kelsaw, and hes the baby of the A-Team – the trio of A-list receivers with the names of Austin (Coleman), Aaron (Knight) and Akeim. And while Coleman is in his final season with the Cougars and Knight is a junior, Kelsaw – to the dismay of Saint Francis opponents through the 2015 season – is just beginning as a redshirt freshman.
Eight games into his collegiate career, Kelsaw is putting up veteran numbers. While he and Coleman share the team lead with 34 receptions, Kelsaw has been particularly effective over the past four games.
In a 25-13 Saint Francis victory that knocked defending NAIA champion Saint Xavier from its No. 1 status, he had seven catches for 93 yards. Two weeks later, against new No. 1 Marian, he had nine catches for 98 yards and a touchdown. Against No. 5 William Penn, he had four catches, 32 yards. And last week in a 31-7 blowout of Siena Heights when the starters took a second half seat, Kelsaw caught three passes for 51 yards.
The wingback position, he was unfamiliar with it because hes more of an outside guy, but hes developed wonderfully in the role that hes playing, Miller said.
Hes been a big key to our offense. Our two slot receivers are him and Austin, and good luck trying to run with them in man coverage.
And with the help of Coleman, the swagger is coming back to the former All-SAC player from Snider.
I learned a lot from Coleman. We hang around a lot, Kelsaw said. I learned the little details. Thats what he keeps teaching me. Keep your head up. Dont be scared. Dont be shy. Dont be afraid to do anything.
The confidence came in spring ball. I was like if I get the swagger that I had in high school, I could do everything I did in high school, and thats what Im doing here.
Kelsaw wasnt a direct hit. After his final game at Snider, when he had 132 yards and three touchdowns in a regional loss to Fishers, there was a redshirt year of sitting at Saint Francis.
It got him on strong ground academically and gave him a good start, getting accustomed to the system and learning, Saint Francis coach Kevin Donley said.
Kelsaw, as he does with passes from Miller, took the year in stride.
It helps you out a lot, he said of the redshirt season. It helps you get better in the classroom. It helps to get know everybody in the community around here and in the Saint Francis program. Its a good feeling. You go through a year without playing football – almost two years – but its something you have to deal with.