Zackarrey Kelley has made big catches for his Great Crossing High School football team before, so when he went up in the back of the end zone to make a leaping one-handed touchdown grab, he didn’t think much of it.
Band members behind him were grabbing their heads, mouths wide open in shock that he made a catch reminiscent of Odell Beckham Jr. Kelley, meanwhile, got up like it was a normal catch. He was excited to score, celebrating with his teammates after giving his team a 7-0 lead. He didn’t really know he did anything special until he got to the sideline.
“I thought I was just going to get the ball, was doing my best to get to the ball my quarterback threw up to me,” Kelley said. “When I get in the game, it’s like I can’t hear, but once I got to the sideline my teammates were screaming at me. They were speechless, not really saying anything, just screaming.”
Despite what he thought, he hadn’t just made a normal catch. His quarterback threw the ball up to the back right corner of the end zone. It looked as though the ball was going to sail high and out of reach, but Kelley made a giant leap into the air, extended his right arm, body bent backward, and reeled the ball back in while tapping one foot in bounds.
Kelley had just made another big catch the week prior, so when the play actually happened, he got up, chest bumped his teammate and ran to the sideline as if it were just another touchdown.
It was one of three touchdowns he had scored in a 42-6 win over East Jessamine, but it wasn’t until after the game ended that he realized the catch was going viral.
It first was featured on the local news, a few websites and eventually Twitter, but once it was the No. 1 play on SportsCenter’s Top 10, it got to a level he was never expecting.
“Once I got to the sideline my teammates were screaming at me. They were speechless, not really saying anything, just screaming.”
“I had the biggest smile on my face. I was at Waffle House with my friends and they told me it was on SportsCenter,” said Kelley, a Class of 2023 wide receiver who said he does not have any offers yet. “The first thing I did was call my mom and tell her that I was on SportsCenter and she told my dad. They were just excited. Everybody was speechless because that’s not normal for somebody out of Georgetown (Kentucky) to get on SportsCenter.”
From there, he received notification after notification on social media, every few seconds someone new retweeting or reposting his catch. He estimated he received around 300 calls, texts and direct messages.
He still believes he was just doing his job for his team and didn’t know it would garner this much attention. He’s enjoying the moment, but still in disbelief that a kid from a small town could make it on a national stage the way he has.
“I’ve never gotten this much attention from people all over,” Kelley said. “Even this call, I was nervous to talk about it and had to take a minute to think about it. I know my coaches believed in me, they told me before that I would get the ball, so I just made a play, that’s it.”