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Joshua Kelley: Embracing 'Consistency & Confidence'
"I'm attacking this mindset of competition. I know what it is. I'm not gonna shy away from it and act like it's not there. That No. 2 spot is up for grabs."
By Hayley Elwood Aug 10, 2022

With training camp here, we're checking in with Chargers players ahead of the 2022 season:

Our series continues this week with Joshua Kelley.

Now in his third NFL season, the 2020 third-round pick of the Bolts is currently in a battle for ownership of the running back spot behind Austin Ekeler.

Here's more from an honest and candid Kelley on how that camp competition is fueling him, how he's worked through the challenges that have come during his first two NFL seasons, why he values the communication on this coaching staff, and more.

We spoke last year, but you were drafted in 2020 aka the class that came in during an 'unprecedented time.'

Does this feel normal now?

Kelley: It feels so much more normal now! My first two years, it was just so much more limited. You barely could talk to people and interact with people. But now, this feels like it's an actual, regular football season. We have a normal schedule with no variables due to COVID.

How challenging were those first two years for you?

Kelley: It was definitely tough. For me, I've used those experiences and learning curves to get better to where I am now. Honestly, it's been a blessing, for real.

Really? In what way?

Kelley: I've learned a lot about myself, going through adversity and setbacks. In college, it was kind of a bit of smooth sailing. There were some setbacks here and there, but for the most part, I kind of knew what to expect.

These past two years, there were times where I wasn't dressing for games. Being inactive. That was a big mental challenge for me. Like, wow, this doesn't really happen. This had never really happened to me before. But how do you respond?

Looking back at it now, I've become a better person and player from it.

What has that done for your mental approach to the game?

Kelley: It's helped me want it more. It really has. For me, I've always felt like I've been 'that guy.' But it's like, dang, when you're not playing, it's interesting.

It made me say I want it more. I want to prove to everybody who I am, that I can do better, and I can be the best.

I spoke with running backs coach Derrick Foster earlier this year, and he said the key for you is putting consistency and confidence together.

How do you do that?

Kelley: It's an everyday process. Practice, preseason games, after practice. It's an everyday thing and it's a mental battle.

But I've very confident that I've been putting in the work, the time in, the effort. When you do that, you have no regrets, no matter what happens.

We've heard special teams is going to play a role in who takes over that No. 2 running back spot.

How have you tapped into that third phase?

Kelley: I definitely think I've been making strides in this camp in that area. I'm not perfect, I could still get a lot better in all phases. But it's definitely been encouraging to see what I've been able to do because I've put a lot of time into it.

Coach Fick [special teams coordinator Ryan Ficken] is a great guy, he's a great special teams coach. It's clear what he wants from you. When I know exactly what he wants from me, it's easier to lock in and do exactly that.

Is having a coach directly telling you what they want you to do – so you have that clear directive – unlike something you've had in the past?

Kelley: Definitely. He sat down with me way back in April and we had a heart-to-heart talk about what he expected from me. I've never had a special teams coach literally say, 'I see you fitting here, here, and here.' So it was like, 'Ok! It's clear communication.'

He's been awesome for me. I've just been leaning a lot. Going into my third year, things start slowing down a bit. I'm a vet now.

What's it been like working with Derrick Foster?

Kelley: He's a great guy. Same thing as [Ficken], we had a heart-to-heart. He told me what he wanted from me going into this camp. He's always trying to find ways to make us get better. I like that as a coach. He's been a great help.

How helpful is the open communication with these coaches and their philosophy?

Kelley: It's been good because I think when you have communication with people, that's when you build trust. Every relationship has to have communication and trust. You've gotta be honest with people because you can't keep them in the dark. That's in any relationship.

I think this communication has been really good as is trying to give communication back – it's a two-way street. But I know what's expected from me and it's go-time. I gotta put it out here on tape during these preseason games and put it out here when it means the most.

How are you attacking this camp?

Kelley: I'm attacking this mindset of competition. I know what it is. I'm not gonna shy away from it and act like it's not there. That No. 2 spot is up for grabs.

For me, it's about how can I get better? But I know what the deal is. We're in the NFL. So I'm locked in.

I'm trying to make an impression and capitalize on an opportunity. I know preseason is big, that's gonna be the biggest factor. I'm looking forward to it.

Ekeler had said in a presser that he wants the other running backs to come in, 'bring it', and challenge him.

What kind of motivation does that present?

Kelley: Oh that's awesome. He embraces competition so like, for me, I do as well. That's what it's about. If you want to be great in this league, you've gotta embrace it.

I know it's friendly. As a [person], I love Ek, I love everything about him. But [as a competitor] I love the competitive aspect. The 'bring it.' That's gonna help our room get better.

What're some things you're working on this year to separate yourself from the pack?

Kelley: It's definitely been special teams. I think that's part of a big reason why I wasn't suiting up last year. You've got a starter so the next guy behind him has to play teams. For me, I've been trying to get better on special teams and make myself valuable.

You mentioned how those preseason reps are going to be huge. First game is on Aug. 13, what do you want to show out there?

Kelley: I wanna show that I can tote the ball, pass protect, and do all the little things you want me to do. But I also want to be a dominant special teams player and prove myself on teams and make some plays.

It's critical. It's one thing to be great at practice, but let's make it happen in a game.

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