Kyle Kelly’s Senior Column: A look back on four memorable years


Noah Paulsen

Kyle Kelly sits at the CSPAN news desk in Washington D.C.

Kyle Kelly, Sports Editor

There is nothing I love more than telling a good story. So here are a few of them.

My decision to come to John Carroll University was much easier than the one after I arrived here.

I had a short list of requirements when choosing a college. I wanted to spend the next four years of my life at a small, private, Jesuit, Roman-Catholic university located in Cleveland, Ohio. I wanted that place to offer the best chance for me to grow individually, intellectually and spiritually. I also needed to be involved in sports. The choice of John Carroll University was a no-brainer.

The way I knew it was God’s calling for me was nearly a miracle.

In my senior theology class at St. John’s Jesuit in Toledo, Ohio, we were assigned a paper researching the life of a Jesuit. The way we choose that Jesuit was rather unique. Father Thomas Doyle S.J. went around the classroom with a hat of approximately 30 Jesuits’ names on a small piece of paper. I was one of the first students to pull a name out of the hat and when I looked at who I had picked, I couldn’t believe who it was. It was John Carroll — the namesake of this institution.

Kyle Kelly senior football banner at St. John’s Jesuit in 2016.

Two years prior, when I had a meeting with my guidance counselor, Doug Pearson — the head football coach during my time at St. John’s — he asked me if I had begun to think about where I wanted to go to college. If I had, he wondered, what were some of the schools that spiked my interest? I told him only one college, in confidence: John Carroll University.

As a 15-year old just beginning my sophomore year at St. John’s, I had known little to nothing about John Carroll University. In fact, all I knew was that my English teacher and head junior varsity football coach, Patrick Russell, had attended JCU. Russell was one of the earliest mentors in my life. I admired Russell’s work ethic, love for football and passion for living out the Jesuit mission of being a Man for Others.

Patrick Russell (left) and Kyle Kelly (right) in June of 2019.

For most of the next two years at St. John’s, I didn’t give John Carroll University any more thought— until it was time to begin visiting schools. The first school I visited was JCU. After two hours on the campus, I fell in love. As my Dad and I went down the elevator in Rodman Hall following the visit, I told him, ‘This is it.’ I wanted to go to John Carroll University.

How a mistake led me to what I love

In addition to all of the reasons detailed above, perhaps the main reason I chose John Carroll University was because I knew I wanted to work in the NFL. JCU’s pipeline to the NFL has been well-documented, and my goal was to become the next Blue Streak to have a career in the NFL.

Naturally, I had worked my way into becoming a student-manager for the football team. Meanwhile, with the help of Joe Ginley, I began a job working in the Sports Information Department. Shortly thereafter, Chris Wenzler (my boss while working in SID) promoted me to a student captain in the office, working with the football program. This meant I was going to be the primary student communications contact with a team that was coming off its best season in program history.

I was left with a decision to make.

I was dead-set on wanting to work in the NFL, and I felt the best way to get there was working as a student assistant with the football team. So, I moved in three weeks before the semester started and became a football student-manager.

Kyle Kelly in Campion 316 on freshman football move-in day.

I didn’t even last one day.

During our first meeting with the other football managers, they discussed the details and the responsibilities of the position. I confidently knew this was not what I wanted to do. So, I grabbed most of my necessities out of Campion 316 and retreated back home to Toledo for a few more weeks.

How I chose my career path

I mostly fell into my sports media career by accident.

When I was 16 years old, I started paying closer attention to the sports media side of Twitter. I created a Cleveland Browns fan page. By the time I was a senior, I had grown the page to more than 6,000 followers. In the meantime, I had started “covering” the Browns by writing for Cleveland sports blogs, appearing on radio shows and doing everything your typical sports beat writer would do. Every Friday on our high school’s televised morning announcements, I did a Fantasy Football segment that became popular throughout the school.

Kyle Kelly (left) and Matt Kaminski (right) during the Friday fantasy football preview show at St. John’s Jesuit during the fall of 2016.

I knew that I wanted to pursue a career in sports media but for some reason, I instead tried going the route of coaching/scouting. It obviously did not work out — a blessing in disguise.

It wasn’t until a couple of years ago that I realized that I actually wanted to work in the media. I’m not sure why it took me so long because, throughout my whole life, I was intrigued by the field of communication.

Every day while getting dressed before grade school, I would watch “SportsCenter” on ESPN. Then, on the bus on the way to school, I would listen to “Mike & Mike” in the morning. When I came home from school, I’d turn on the evening news on WTOL 11 and watch it from 5 to 6:30 p.m. During weekends, I’d listen late into the night to radio shows on 92.5 KISS F.M. Now, I know why.

Kyle Kelly on the school bus in grade school in Toledo, Ohio.

Once I started covering the Browns in high school, I listened to Cleveland sports-talk radio round-the-clock and spent more time than I would like to admit perusing Twitter. I did all of the radio interviews, tweeting and writing on my own, without learning the fundamentals of journalism; as a result, I made some regrettable mistakes along the way. Thankfully, with the help of so many great professors and mentors at John Carroll University, I have become more polished, ready to work professionally in an industry where I hope to build a lifelong career.

The man I will forever be indebted to

Chris Wenzler passed away on June 23, 2020, following a 26-month long battle with cancer.

I would be nowhere without Chris Wenzler.

There are not enough words to express my gratitude for Wenzler’s mentorship during my time at JCU.

When I arrived in University Heights in August 2017, I felt a bit lost and needed some direction. Wenzler navigated me through my first few months at JCU and, in doing so, gave me a sense of purpose. I can confidently say that were it not for Wenzler’s guidance, I would not be writing this column today. I would not be graduating as a Blue Streak.

My first semester at John Carroll was difficult. I was balancing the pressure of being the first member of my extended family to go away to college. Now, I am 18 days away from being the first to graduate with a bachelor’s degree. If that pressure weren’t enough, I had chosen a rather academically rigorous institution that required outstanding scholarship for success. During all of this, I was also battling anxiety and frequent panic attacks.

#WorksInProgress Campaign

Wenzler had created a welcoming culture in the Sports Information office. He gave me opportunities that I could never have dreamed of pursuing, such as broadcasting a game and working as a sideline reporter. Wenzler saw something in me that I did not. He stuck by me and allowed me to find my way at JCU. What I will never understand is how he knew exactly what he was doing.

When Wenzler was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in the spring of 2018, the Sports Information Department was faced with an extremely difficult challenge. Wenzler was Mr. John Carroll: the dictionary definition of a Man of Carroll. At the time, he had spent 27 years as Sports Information director. During his 30 years as SID, Wenzler was known for hardly ever missing a day of work. He had become the steady hand of John Carroll University athletics. Now, Wenzler was absent for days and weeks at a time to undergo treatment.

The Sports Information Department was blessed with a group of outstanding seniors, whose leadership played an essential role in keeping the department running on full cylinders during this tumultuous time. I also saw an opportunity to step up and give it my all for Wenzler. I don’t think I missed a home JCU sporting event that spring. I have hardly missed a home JCU sporting event since.

The John Carroll University Sports Information 2018 Senior Class.

Sports Info Family

The Sports Information Department has been the cornerstone of my time at John Carroll. I had so many amazing opportunities working for Wenzler. I traveled to Wisconsin-Stevens Point for the first football game my sophomore year, I attended Ohio Athletic Conference Media Day at the Pro Football Hall of Fame and I have covered 11 OAC Championships and nine NCAA Tournament games.

The Sports Information Department made me feel at home. Not only did I enjoy what I was doing, but I also felt that I was good at it — the first time in my life where I could say that. My closest friends from JCU are the ones I met working in Sports Information — such as Noah Tylutki. Between my work in Sports Information, WJCU 88.7 FM,, The News-Herald and all my other endeavors, I probably spent more time working with Noah than I will have free time with my spouse once I’m married.

Kyle Kelly (left) and Noah Tylutki (right) during a football radio broadcast.

What I have enjoyed most about my time at John Carroll is working with all of the amazing people here, especially the coaches and athletes. Each one has shown so much interest in sharing their stories with me, and it has been incredibly rewarding to share them in writing. Being able to tell the stories of our athletes and sports teams is a microcosm of the relationships that I have built working in Sports Information.

There is nothing more that I love than writing a feature story. What the readers don’t understand is the extensive work of the editing staff to tell those stories is why I can say they turned out well. Once again, a result of the people at JCU.

The Carroll News Squad

The Carroll News staff at Meet The Press in 2019. (Photo courtesy of Josie Schuman)

Over the last three years, holding the post as sports editor of The Carroll News has given me unending opportunities. It has been humbling to follow in the footsteps of so many outstanding sports editors such as John Alfes, Joe McCarthy, Ginley, Mike Scanlan and even Wenzler himself.

Although I was never cut out for the late deadline nights that the print editions required, the nights in the newsroom were special. Sharing the corner of the newsroom with Ella Schuellerman and Rachel Scully was an absolute blast — except when Ella went to London for a semester and Rachel decided to go to Ireland. It’s unfortunate that COVID-19 took those nights away from us, but it is something I will always look back on when Ella and Rachel are at the top of their industry in whichever career they pursue.

I greatly admire the work of the school newspaper and its journalists, especially the three former editors-in-chief: Olivia Shackleton, Kathleen Mackey and Sophia Maltese. Their excellence in reporting challenged me to never become complacent in my work. To no surprise, Shackleton has become a staple of NBC’s “Meet the Press” and Maltese will soon follow. I can say without a doubt: No one has a work ethic better than Sophia Maltese. Shackleton and Mackey could give her a run for her money but Sophia is a machine.

Sophia Maltese (left) jokingly yells at Kyle Kelly (right) during Carroll News deadline night in the fall of 2019.

Without the guidance of Professor Carrie Buchanan, I would have never been able to achieve my professional goals. Buchanan has always challenged me to go the extra mile, and what I admired most was her straightforwardness. To be able to work this closely with a professional journalist the last four years has been inspiring and always motivated me to do my best.

Thank you

I have so many people to thank for these last four years at John Carroll University and for fear of forgetting someone, I am not going to try to name them all. If you’re reading this column, know that you impacted my journey as a Blue Streak in some way, shape or form. The people are what make John Carroll such a great place.

However, I will have to single out one for keeping me on the straight and narrow. My girlfriend of nearly four years, Megan Ferguson, has been such an important part of my life. She is the one that forced me to seek counseling in January of 2018 when my anxiety and panic attacks became overwhelming. Without her making me go to the counseling center that semester and sticking by me these last four years, I would have never been able to accomplish any of the things that I have. Her patience and understanding are truly admirable. I am beyond grateful.

Megan Ferguson (left) and Kyle Kelly (right) during April of 2021.

In closing, walking away from what I have built these last four years will be the most difficult and challenging hurdle I have faced thus far. I truly love JCU. Forgive me for the cliches, but in life, all good things eventually come to end. When one door closes, another one opens. I know that even when I am no longer a student at JCU, I will always be a Blue Streak.

As hard as it will be to graduate, I find comfort in knowing I leave with not only a degree but a mountain of amazing experiences, forever friendships and memories that will last a lifetime. Most importantly, I will always carry the mentality of being a #WenzlerWarrior. Thanks for everything, Blue Streak family. It’s been a pleasure serving such an amazing community.