This article is part of a running series The Daily’s sports staff will be publishing on senior athletes.
Senior cornerback Kyu Blu Kelly is set to begin his fourth and final season with the Stanford football team. Coming off of a junior campaign in which he led the Pac-12 in passes defended and earned All-Pac-12 second team honors, Kelly has been named to the Preseason All-Pac-12 first team, Thorpe Award watch list, the Bronko Nagurski Trophy watch list, the Bednarik Award watch list, the Senior Bowl watch list and the Shrine Bowl watch list ahead of the 2022 season.
The Daily’s Lauren Koong spoke with Kelly about his time at Stanford, expectations for the upcoming season and his plans for the future.
The Stanford Daily (TSD): Why did you start playing football?
Kyu Blu Kelly (KBK): Definitely because my dad played a few years in the National Football League. I started at receiver. He was a corner, so now I’m a corner, but definitely just always been around athletics and football just narrowed it down for me. I started football around six. My dad is definitely one of my biggest influences. Before I had other coaches in my life, he was my first coach. He’s my weight training coach, my position coach. We watch film together; he still watches film with me to this day. He’s always been my coach on and off the field my whole life.
TSD: During your recruiting process, what made you choose Stanford?
KBK: It’s a funny story. My dad actually interned with the 49ers and he visited Stanford in my freshman year of high school. He saw it and was like, “Yeah, this is the place for you.” I was like, “No, I don’t think I’ll go there,” at the time, but when I got the offer, I really thought about it. I mean, it’s a four year decision — this degree can take me places where a lot of other degrees can’t. I care a lot about school and playing high Power Five football, and that was a no-brainer for me once I got the offer.
TSD: Do you remember your first Stanford practice?
KBK: My first official one was ball camp because we had a little team practice. Things were going very fast and I was very confused. It was fun, though. I probably had a few rookie moments, “welcome to college” moments, for sure.
TSD: What is it like balancing school and academics with football?
KBK: It’s actually easier here. Stanford football and athletics all around really allow you to create your own schedule and balance what you want. If you want to load up, they’ll cater to that. If you need to be somewhere, they’ll never put themselves before scholastics. Stanford does a really good job at that.
TSD: Looking back, what has been your favorite part about Stanford?
KBK: My favorite part of Stanford would definitely be the connections I’ve made. The people I’ve met here are probably the people I never would’ve met if I didn’t go here. There’s so many interesting people with so many different skill sets and gifts. It’s really helped me just being able to connect because throughout a lot of my life, I haven’t really been an extrovert. This place really just opened me up to building connections with people.
TSD: How does it feel to be entering your final year at Stanford?
KBK: It hasn’t really hit me yet. Honestly, COVID really affected my whole college experience because that was the spring of my freshman year, and then I was home. Sophomore year wasn’t even college; we were the only ones on campus. So this past year, this junior year, was the first real year of college I got and now I’m already at my senior year. It kind of flew by, but it’s bittersweet. I’m excited for the next chapter and kind of sad that it’s over.
TSD: Are there any specific personal goals that you want to accomplish in your last year?
KBK: The biggest for me is I want to play in the biggest game possible, whether that’s a Rose Bowl or a natty. I definitely want to win the Pac-12 championship and get to the Rose Bowl and play a really big game to end my college career.
TSD: Stanford has one of the toughest schedules in the country this year. How do you feel about the upcoming season?
KBK: I’m pretty confident. This’ll be my fourth camp, and it’s just the most energetic and competitive camp I’ve ever been in. I’m just really excited about that. We have a lot of maturity on the team and I’m just ready for the guys to go out there and ball out, which I think we will do.
TSD: Are there any games in particular that you’re looking forward to?
KBK: Yeah, my dad was a USC alum, so always, every year, playing against ‘SC is fun, whether I’m at the Coliseum or here. And Utah, got to get payback against Utah after last year. Those are two I’ve got circled for sure.
TSD: Do you have any plans for the future?
KBK: Of course. To take the NFL as far as I can, but I’m doing a few things off the field. I just signed with Microsoft on a video game I was creating, so that went pretty well. And then, I want to get into real estate development. My dad has a development company so I’m always with him doing his house stuff, so I definitely want to get to that after. Those are two things I’ll be branching out into.
TSD: With all of that, what would you say keeps you motivated?
KBK: I’ve always wanted to be something. Wherever I’m doing whatever it is, I want to be somebody who’s successful at something I do. I want to be the best I can be at it, however far that takes me.
This transcript has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.