Sept. 11, 2002
Kelley Rhino, currently eighth on the ACC’s all-time punt return list with 824 yards, came by and hit chat on Wednesday. Rhino, a senior, is a big hitter on special teams despite being the smallest player (5-7, 179) on the Tech squad. Rhino’s also a fan favorite in Atlanta because his father, Randy, grandfather, Chappell, and uncle, Danny, all previously played football for the Yellow Jackets.
See what Rhino had to say below:
For a list of upcoming ESPN.com chat guests, visit the Community section.
Kelley Rhino: Hello everyone. I am here and ready for your questions. Let’s get started.
Robert (Birmingham): Kelley, you are one of the most exciting punt returners I have ever seen. Tell us your predictions for the Clemson game and the mindset a player must have to go into a hostile environment like Death Valley.
Kelley Rhino: First, I don’t make predictions. All I can say is that our whole team is very excited and that we will play very hard. I’ve been there before, and they have a great college atmosphere. When I’m returning a punt, I just need to block all that out so I can catch the ball and make some yards on our offense. It’s definitely one of the loudest stadiums I’ve played in.
Jim (Cumming, GA): When is it that you determine which way you are going to return a punt? Do you wait until after you catch it or are you looking for running routes while the ball is in the air?
Kelley Rhino: When the ball is snapped, I look at both gunners to see what kind of release they have. If they get a good release, he’s going to be in my face quickly and I’ll need to be ready to make a move as soon as I catch the ball. Making the first guy miss is an important thing. After that, I’m just looking for a crease. We could have a return left, middle or right, but I’m really just trying to find a way to go north/south.
Jim (Greenville, SC): Are you at all surprised by the success of Tony Hollings considering he just switched from DB to tailback this season?
Kelley Rhino: Not at all. We saw in spring practice, and even before that, what he could do. We saw that he wouldn’t have any problem at all adjusting to tailback. As you can see from the first two games, he has great breakaway speed and a knack for breaking tackles.
Matt (Detroit): Hey Kelley Rhino. Since GT has a new coach and new quarterback, do you guys feel strong enough to win the ACC. I see you guys doing it! Good Luck to all GT players!
Kelley Rhino: We do. We have set our gials high this year. We feel Coach Gailey is a great coach, and we feel we have solid replacements at key positions. (Tony Holings, A.J. Suggs, and a couple of new receivers.) We felt like we could have won it last year and it was a disappointing season. Hopefully we can finish games like we didn’t last year. We can compete with any ACC team.
Ehsan (Norcross): Hey Rhino, what do you think of your comparison with RUDY from Notre Dame?
Kelley Rhino: Actually, that’s one of my favorite movies. It hits home a little bit. People have been telling me all my life that I was too small too play, any sport, especially football at the D-I level. I just use that as motivation.
Carroll Carter (Woodstock, GA): Congratulations, Kelley on a great career at Georgia Tech.
Which do like better: Kickoff coverage or Punt Returns, or do you like both the same?
Kelley Rhino: Thank you very much. I would have to say both. My freshman year, all I did was kickoff returns and pretty much fell in love with it. To me, kickoff coverage, that’s what football is all about. It’s going down and trying to hit somene as hard as you can on a full sprint. My sophomore year I started returning punts, and I love doing that as well. Any way I can help my team out and maybe make a difference in a game is a great feeling. I love both equally.
Randy Rhino: Kelley, you have seen film of your dad, who would your mother say is the best punt returner?
Kelley Rhino: Well, dad, yes I’ve seen film of you. First of all, the record you broke for the longest punt return in Tech history (96 yards), shouldn’t even be in there because you shouldn’t have caught the ball inside the 10-yard line. Secondly, mom thinks Randy Jr and I are better at everything than you are. There’s no question in my mind that she would say me.
Clay (Boston, MA): Rhino!
Awesome sack at UConn! We were going nuts for you in the stands! Any chance of getting to Simmons this weekend at Clemson? Go Jackets!
Kelley Rhino: Thanks. Hopefully. Playing defense this year is one my main goals, personally. It was a great feeling getting a sack last Saturday, but the only thing wrong with it is that I couldn’t celebrate with my teammates because I had to hurry back and field the punt. It would be awesome to get a sack at Clemson, especially on a really good QB like Willie Simmons.
Chris (Augusta): How would you say your height affects your ability as a DB?
Kelley Rhino: At the nickel back position, I don’t have to worry about deep balls a lot, which was the main concern of me not playing cornerback. At cornerback, the main job is to not let any balls get over your head. At nickel back, I play more underneath routes and the run, where height is not as much of a factor.
Ryan (Atlanta): Kelley, great Tech career! What are you studying at Tech and when do you graduate?
Kelley Rhino: Thank you. I’m in business-management, and I plan on graduating in 4 1/2 years, next December. Right now, my only concern is my senior year of football. I’m not thinking about the future yet. As soon as it’s over, I’ll be making decisions regarding my future. I know I want to stay in Atlanta. I grew up here, love the city and hope to stay the rest of my life.
Boiling Springs,S.C.: Kelley, Hard to believe this is your senior year . What game or play sticks out from your career at Georgia Tech? Just want to thank you and your teammates for being so polite to my young daughters at Tech’s Fan Day. Every year the event gets better. See you at Clemson on Saturday !
Kelley Rhino: Thank you so much. The Clemson game my sophomore year when Kerry Watkins made the one-handed at the end of the game, that was great. As a team, when we went up to Clemson and upset them, we really knew that we had arrived. To end the game like that was something special. The whole team was so excited, and it was great being a part of it.
Jay (Atlanta): How much convincing did it take to get you in the cage with the Rhino for that picture? GO JACKETS!
Kelley Rhino: It wasn’t in a cage. It was out on the open, and the rhinos were actually lower than we were. Our main problem was getting them over there so they could get in the picture with us. One of the workers from the zoo came over and fed the rhinos. As soon as he fed them, he ran out of the way so we could get some pictures taken. It was a pretty cool experience.
John (Royston GA.): Kelly, I met your grandfather last month, what a great man! What is it like to follow in his footsteps and those of your Uncle and Father?
Kelley Rhino: It really is something special. My grandfather, my father, my whole family has been very supportive of me my whole career. They always made it my decision as far as what I wanted to do. Someone asked my grandfather who was the best in our family. I don’t really know the answer to that. All I know is my grandfather beat Georgia on a halfback pass, and not many Tech people have that experience.
Kelley Rhino: That is all the time I have right now. I’ve got to head to practice. Thanks for having me here and for all the great questions. Hopefully we can pull off a victory in Clemson this Saturday for all the Tech fans. Go Jackets!