Hard work paying off for Samford’s Pope
by LaVonte Young
Kelsey Pope lives by the Taras Brown quote of “Hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard.” The quote has made a huge difference in Pope’s life as he has taken his game to the next level going into his senior season at Samford. The Sylacauga native has been named to Phil Steele, Sports Network and College Sports Madness Preseason All-American teams.

Pope said he is looking forward to showing the country what he and his team can do this season.

“ Yeah, as a competitor you have to expect things like that,” Pope said. “You can’t really focus on it, at the end of the day you have to go put the work out on the field. I just try to focus on keeping the concept of completing the journey and know that it’s a long season and staying focused over the course of the entire season.”

All the preseason recognition is something that Pope has worked hard to accomplish. Pope has put in countless hours of individual work in since getting to Samford.

“That’s how I try to get my edge,” Pope said. “I go on my own along with the mandatory workouts. I am trying to get any edge that I can. There are people out there everyday that want the same thing that you want and at the end of the day it comes down to who is motivated and more determined. If something is important to you then you will put the time and the work in to do it.”

The two time second team All-Southern Conference performer said seeing his hard work pay off makes him want to work even harder.

“I think when I was in high school I didn’t do as much because I felt content with being more talented,” Pope said. “But being able to work and see my progress to be able to see All-American, All-Conference and things like that comes along with that work it makes you want to do it even more.”

Pope has led Samford in receptions the last two seasons. As a sophomore, he recorded 86 receptions, 810 yards and six touchdowns. He also had 33 carries, 175 yards rushing and four touchdowns.

Last season, he caught 68 passes for 552 yards and four touchdowns. Pope averaged 8.1 yards per catch and 50.2 yards per game. Pope also rushed six times for 25 yards and a touchdown. Even though his numbers slightly dropped last season, he is going to take the same approach going into the season that he took last season.

“I think a lot of it is just being comfortable with coverages and just playing football,” Pope said. “Running after the catch, blocking and doing things that I am able to do naturally. People make a big deal about senior year being your last year. It is just really another year of playing football. I am approaching it with the same work ethic. I feel like I always work hard. I really don’t want to make too much out of it and just have a good year.

This season, the SOCON media and coaches picked the Bulldogs to finish in the middle of the conference. Pope believes that this season the team has what it takes to win the conference and make the Football Championship Subdivion playoffs.

“We expect to go far, but every team in the country expects to go far,” Pope said. “We still have to put in the work. I expect to us to go far and really the sky is the limit. We got our All-American running back returning. We have a great quarterback, great wide receivers and an All-American safety. I feel like this should be the year to do it, but who am I to say that when we still have to put the work in on the field.”

With Georgia Southern and Appalachian State moving to Division I Sun Belt conference next season they will not be eligible for the conference championship or the playoffs. Even though the two top teams from last year can’t compete for the title Pope knows the road to the SoCon title is going to be tough.

“We have a tough conference with Georgia Southern and Appalachian State not being eligible, it opens to door for us a whole lot more for the conference championship and the playoffs,” Pope said. “We want to just stay focused. Our conference is the toughest on the Division I AA level. Each and every week we have: Chattanooga, Wofford, Appalachian State and Georgia Southern. It is still going to be tough, we just have to prepare every week the same for each team.”

This summer, the Bulldogs worked hard to prepare for fall camp. This summer, the Samford coaching staff added a nutritionist to help the players get healthier.

“We have been working hard this summer,” Pope said. “Whether it is conditioning or speed work or 7-on-7. We even got a nutritionist to help us to get an edge to help us get our bodies right. The coaches are going to extra mile to give us an edge. She has been taking care of us and making sure we are getting the right things in our body.”

Last Wednesday, Pope was one of the student/athletes that made to trip to SoCon media day in Spartanburg,SC to represent Samford. While there Pope shot a couple of promos for ESPN.

“We got the game of the week against Citadel and Chattanooga,” Pope said. “They had me to do a promo and it was fun. That kind of stuff like: interviews and commercials that’s the fun part. The part people get to laugh at and see the glamour. The hard part is the running, the working out and going at 2 p.m. when the sun is beaming and nobody is outside.”

Kelsey’s twin brother Kyle plays linebacker for Jacksonville State. Kelsey said he admires his brothers.

“My brother is really my hero,” Pope said. “ He might not know it. Even though we are twins, I look up to him a lot and I go to him for motivation. It is really a blessing. I just thank God for a brother- we go through the same trials and tribulations, but some one I can relate and bond with. As be happy for when he is successful and when I am successful. It is just a cool thing to be able to come up with your whole life with the same person. Even over the years, he is at Jacksonville and I am here we still have that bond. It may even be strong with us far apart. That is somebody that I look up too.”

Pope is also on track to accomplishing another huge accomplishment this year.

“I am on track to be finish in the spring,” Pope said. “I only have an internship and another Business Management class and I’ll be done in the spring.”

© 2013