Coach Kelly Holder of Mount Airy would prefer to treat all of his players equally.
Considering his son Logan is the Granite Bears’ starting quarterback, that’s easier said than done.
Logan enters his second full season as the signal-caller for the Bears, who kick off the season Friday night at Starmount.
Kelly admits balancing the father-son, coach-quarterback relationship is tough.
“We don’t butt heads because of him making mistakes,” Kelly said. “We butt heads on the basis of how he reacts to my coaching most of the time. I’m not very good at staying out of daddy mode. I coach him in coaching mode. When he responds to me sometimes I go into daddy mode.
“It’s different with Logan, because if I want to grab his face mask or jerk him up by his shoulder pads, I’m free to do that because he’s mine. I can’t do that for every other player. I feel bad about that a lot, because I don’t treat him like every other player sometimes.”
If anything, Kelly will get onto Logan quicker than he would any other player on the team. During the Bears’ recent 7-on-7 Jamboree, dad made that point loud and clear.
Logan said the two have a good relationship, and that he treats his dad like a coach on and off the field, and understands that he wants him to be at his best.
“Yeah, he rips me quite often, but it’s for a reason …,” Logan said. “What gets him the most is when I start walking away from him at first. He doesn’t like it. You can’t do that. If you make a mistake during a game and he tries to talk to you, don’t walk away. Listen and do what you are told.”
It pays to listen closely.
A standout QB at North Surry (1993 grad), Kelly had more than 2,000 all-purpose yards and 22 total touchdowns his senior season for the Greyhounds. He was an honorable mention all-state pick by The Associated Press and played in the East-West All-Star Game. Kelly went on to play college football at Elon, where he graduated in 1998.
His first football coaching job came at Surry Central, where he served as an assistant coach in 1993 and 1994. Then, he took over the head coaching duties there in 1995, the first of four seasons leading the Golden Eagles. In 1999, he accepted a head coaching position at Mount Airy. This will be his 16th season with the Bears, who have captured nine of the last 11 conference football titles.
But even with the wealth of experience, nothing can prepare a guy for how to best handle coaching his son. Kelly recalled the words of Ron King, who won more than 500 games and a state title as North Surry’s basketball coach.
“I remember him saying if your son is the best player on the team, it’s going to be easy. If he’s the worst player on the team, it’s going to be easy. But if he’s anywhere in the middle, you can expect some criticism,” Kelly said. “Logan is in the middle, so we’ve had a little bit. I can handle it. It don’t bother me. It does bother me when he hears it sometimes. I think he pretty much handles it in stride.”
At a school with a tradition of winning football such as Mount Airy, fans show little mercy when things aren’t going well on the field. When the starting QB is the coach’s son, there’s no telling what kind of harsh comments might come cascading down from the bleachers.
“Yeah, I hear it going around sometimes. I just let it fall off my back. It doesn’t faze me one bit,” Logan said.
Other times, his friends and teammates joke around with him about it.
Logan has a laid-back personality and has a short memory when it comes to being corrected.
“Logan does a really, really good job of forgetting when he’s been chewed. I can remember when he was little, you could give Logan a spanking and in five minutes he’d be back in your lap just all over you,” Kelly said. “My younger one he’s a little bit different. He’ll hold a grudge a little bit longer. Logan does a good job of letting it go off his back, even when his daddy is wrong. There’s been a few times when he’s been right and I’ve been wrong.”
Kelly said his wife Jill frequently absorbs the brunt of much of the criticism from fans.
“There’s not a better coach’s wife than Jill,” Kelly said. “She’ll sit right in the middle of all that mess and take it like a champ. Sometimes fans can be pretty brutal. She does a good job of taking that.”
She also notices when Kelly is particularly tough on Logan.
“Jill don’t mind me jumping on him,” Kelly said, “but sometimes when I go overboard and jerk him up, she might not like that too much and I’ll catch a little bit from her.”
Logan has been in football since age 7 when he played QB for the South Main Jets Little League team. His first varsity start came at powerhouse Thomasville in 2012. The sophomore, filling in for an injured Austin Taylor, threw two touchdown passes to Darius Gwyn as the Bears beat the Bulldogs 21-14 at Cushwa Stadium.
It was a special moment for father and son.
“Being able to step up to the challenge and win a ball game like that was a great feeling, not only for me but the fans, teammates, coaches,” Logan said. “I was going in there thinking, ‘I’m not going to lose this game.’ I had a big old smile on my face. My first ever varsity win. I gave (my dad) a hug.”
“I was pretty proud of him..,” Kelly said. “It’s pretty big when you are just a sophomore and play a pretty good Thomasville team…I can remember after that game it was pretty cool.”
As a junior, the left-hander started all 13 games for the Bears — completing 76 of 147 passes for 1,188 yards with nine touchdowns and eight interceptions. Mount Airy posted a 9-4 overall record, won the conference title, and reached the second round of the state playoffs. There the Bears fell 20-10 to East Surry, a loss that still stings for Logan.
“Give credit to East Surry. They came in, were well-coached, and ready to play. They were mentally ready. We weren’t,” he said.
Most football players get to go home after a game and not be around their football coach. That’s not the case for Logan and Ian, his younger brother who also plays football.
It’s rare that Kelly gets an opportunity to catch up with the boys immediately after a game with all the commotion going on Friday nights. At the house, the talk often hovers around football. Logan said he loves having his dad around to review game footage on Hudl, a website used by coaches and players, and answer questions about coverages and blocking schemes.
All allegiances come to an end when it comes to college sports, and a particular shade of blue.
“We like Duke, he likes Carolina,” Kelly said. “I couldn’t stand Allen Iverson. He knew it, so he was an Allen Iverson fan when he was little. Pretty much, he would go against the grain. I hate he’s a Carolina fan. It hurts me to the core. That’s just the way it is I guess.”
Kelly might question Logan’s favorite team, but not his ability to play quarterback.
Mount Airy is typically a run-first team, but the Bears come into this season with a lot of speed at the skill positions. When the receivers can get behind the defense, Mount Airy has a QB who can put the ball on the numbers.
“There’s no doubt that his strength is being able to throw it. He can hum it, there’s no doubt about that,” said Kelly.
While Logan is more of a pocket passer, Kelly said his younger son Ian likes to get out and run. Both father and son concede Logan is not the quickest guy on the team — something that drives the senior quarterback nuts.
“His brother don’t care about anything but Johnny Manziel,” Kelly said. “If I could put them together I’d be in business.”
Logan said quarterback was the position he always wanted to play.
“People like my dad are who I looked up to, who I wanted to be,” Logan said. “That’s why I wanted to play, it was all because of my dad. I wanted to follow in his footsteps.”
Logan, a three-sport athlete, said he would like to go to college next year and major in sports management. He wants to play baseball or football at the collegiate level. For now, the 6-foot-1 Holder is focused on football and leading the Bears to another conference crown.
Kelly said he just wants his son to be himself.
“People can knock my coaching ability all they want. They can knock his quarterback ability all they want,” Kelly said. “But you are not going to find anybody’s who’s not going to say he’s not a good person, a good friend or good kid. That’s all that really matters. The rest is really secondary.”