The MTSU football team had its best season is school history in 2009 including a win in the New Orleans Bowl.
Former Blue Raider Jeremy Kellem (20) is ranked seventh in tackles and fifth in passes defended in his rookie year with the Arena Football League’s New Orleans Voodoo. (Photo submitted)
One of the leaders of that 10-win Blue Raider team was defensive back Jeremy Kellem. Three years later, Kellem is back in New Orleans, and enjoying the same success as a rookie in the Arena Football League.
Kellem plays for the New Orleans Voodoo, which is currently in a fight for a playoff spot in a brand of football that is unlike anything he is used to.
Arena Football games are set up inside the same arenas that play host to NBA and NHL teams.
The action is fast paced and in tight quarters with the playing field half the size of the outdoor version at only 50 yards long.
There are several rules differences between the two versions of the sport that Kellem had to get used to in his rookie season.
A couple of key ones are playing on both sides of the ball, and on defense sometimes guarding a receiver that goes in motion before the ball is snapped.
Kellem feels he has made the adjustment to the indoor game.
“It has been going great,” Kellem said via email before the Voodoo traveled to Cleveland for a game. “The first time that I practiced, it was different on my eyes with the motion receiver. The motion receiver makes the game much faster. Now that I am midway through my first season, the game is slowing down.”
Kellem is ranked seventh in the AFL in tackles with 75.5 and is also fifth in the league in passes defended which combines interceptions and knock down passes with 23.
“Kellem has been a huge asset to our team not only as a player but as a person as well,” Voodoo head coach Pat O’ Hara said. “He is a very humble young man that week in and week out goes out and does his job. He is always the last one the practice field trying to get better. He leads by example and his play this season shows that.”
All season, New Orleans has been in a fight for a playoff spot inside the American Conference. The AFL is broken up into two conferences with two divisions in each one. The top four teams in each conference advance to the eight-team playoffs later this season.
Last Saturday, the Voodoo used a second-half comeback to defeat the Cleveland Gladiators 54-42 and if the playoffs started this week, New Orleans would barely get in as the No. 4 seed out of the American Conference.
However both Kellem and O’ Hara know it will take a lot of work to get in the postseason.
“It is going to take consistency on all of us to make sure we play fundamentally sound,” Kellem said. “It is our job on defense to get turnovers for our offense to score. We have a solid offense, so if we get stops and turnovers, that can only help us reach our goals. We need to play consistent in all phases and in four quarters. If we can do those things, we can fight to get in the playoffs.”
O’Hara who has enjoyed success in the AFL as a player and a coach echoed that statement.
“I am confident that we do have a good football team,” O’ Hara said. “Our division is a wild one with a lot of teams bottled up in the middle. This is an important stretch for us and our team knows that.”
Currently, the Voodoo is 6-7 and is only one game out of the top spot in the four-team American Conference-South Division.
The Georgia Force leads the division with a 7-7 mark.
Those teams meet in the final game of the season on July 21.