Cole Kelley made his first start as a professional football player.
The former Teurlings Catholic and Southeastern Louisiana star completed 21-of-38 passes for 307 yards with two touchdowns and one interception on Saturday in his first start for the Memphis Showboats of the USFL.
Kelley also led the Showboats in rushing with 17 yards on four carries.
Both of Kelley’s touchdowns came in the fourth quarter as Memphis attempted a comeback against the Houston Gamblers.
With 4:20 left in the final quarter, Kelley connected with Kerrith Whyte for a 30-yard touchdown. That cut the lead to 23-20.
After Houston missed a field goal, Memphis got the ball back and Kelley orchestrated another touchdown drive.
Kelley began the drive with a 20-yard pass to Derrick Dillon and then a 22-yard pass to John Mitchell. Two plays later, Kelley found Ryan McDaniel in the end zone for a 28-yard touchdown. The extra point was good and the Showboats held a 26-23 lead with a 1:54 left.
Houston unfortunately was able to put together a game-winning touchdown drive to pull out the 30-26 victory.
After going undrafted in 2022, Kelley signed an undrafted free agent deal with the Washington Commanders but was unable to make the team. Kelley was signed earlier this year by the Memphis Showboats and after serving as backup for the first two games, got his start on Saturday.
Kelley was a record-setting quarterback in his three seasons playing at Southeastern Louisiana.
After serving as a backup in 2019, Kelley had a breakout season during the spring of 2021 when he threw for 2,662 yards with 18 touchdowns and four interceptions, while also rushing for a team-high seven touchdowns.
Kelley was named the Southland Conference Offensive Player of the Year, earned multiple All-American honors and received the FCS Walter Payton Award — which is the FCS equilvant of the Heisman Memorial Trophy.
Kelley was a finalist for the Walter Payton Award again in the fall as he threw for 3,634 yards, 31 TD and 6 INT while rushing for 12 touchdowns.
Prior to his time at Southeastern Louisiana, Kelley played in 18 games, including six starts, at the University of Arkansas. Kelley threw for 1,483 yards and 13 touchdowns, while rushing for five more in time in Fayetteville.