The switch from No. 6 to No. 24 might have been the easiest negotiation of Todd Kelly Jr.’s life.
The UT starting junior safety and Knoxville native approached sophomore cornerback Darrell Miller over the offseason, asked if he could have his number, and just like that, made the switch.
Of course, when your motives are as pure as Kelly’s, it’s a deal almost anybody would be willing to make.
Kelly is donning a new number this year to honor Knoxville hero Zaevion Dobson, who died in December courageously shielding three women from gunfire in a local residence.
“He represented Knoxville so well and loved the game so much,” Kelly said of the late 15-year old hero. “It was his dream to play Division I football and that was cut short. I feel like me wearing 24, everyone knows what it stands for and when they see that 24 they know that his legacy continues. I feel like he is continuing to play with No. 24 on the field.”
“That’s something that TK – we talked long and hard about it and he wanted to represent him, his family and this great community,” head coach Butch Jones added on Monday. “And I think it speaks volumes again for TK … I think it speaks volumes for his character, but also for the Dobson family and how close they are to our family.”
It’s a move that Kelly said was universally well-received, with everybody from Miller, Jones to Dobson’s brother, MTSU commitment Zack Dobson, approving of the switch to honor Zaevion.
Kelly won’t miss his No. 6. He said, after all, that 2+4 does add up to it, so he gets to wear both in a sense.
His focus is on honoring Zaevion Dobson and keeping his legacy alive.
“My decision to wear No. 24 is all for Zaevion Dobson,” Kelly said. “Everybody knows he is not here with us anymore, but his legacy lives on. He was a kid from Knoxville that loved the game of football. By wearing this No. 24, I feel like his legacy still lives on on the football field.”