Ron Kellogg III disappeared. At least from Bo Pelini’s vantage point he did.
Kellogg is the fifth-year senior quarterback who initiated Nebraska football history by throwing a Hail Mary pass on the final play of the Huskers’ 27-24 victory against Northwestern.
No doubt you’re familiar with the pass. The ball was tipped at the goal line, probably by a defender, and Jordan Westerkamp caught it for a touchdown.
Westerkamp is a redshirt freshman wide receiver.
The play itself was unlikely enough, but even more so given those involved. Westerkamp is listed second at his position, getting an opportunity because Jamal Turner missed the game because of injury. Kellogg is listed third at his position, getting an opportunity because Taylor Martinez also missed the game because of injury. Martinez has missed four of the last five games, in fact.
Kellogg hadn’t played in the second half until that final drive, on which he completed six-of-eight passes, including the final one, officially a 49-yarder – but it traveled farther. Kellogg put everything he had into the throw, which is why he ended up on the turf.
Then he got up and disappeared.
When Pelini watched the video, “he just ran off the film. I don’t know where he was going,” said Pelini. “Maybe he had a dinner to get to or something, but he was pretty excited.”
Excited and a bit woozy from a knee to the helmet, according to Kellogg.
“Basically, I blacked out,” he said.
Even so, he had the presence of mind to run toward the north end zone. The touchdown was scored in the south end zone. “My whole mentality was to run away from the pile because I’m kind of claustrophobic, and that wouldn’t have been good luck for me to be underneath the pile,” Kellogg said. “So I just ran in the opposite direction.”
The “pile,” which formed atop Westerkamp, was the celebration. Offensive tackle Jeremiah Sirles was among those in it. “He had a panic attack or something, didn’t he?” said Kellogg.
Yes, Sirles did. “That’s why I ran the opposite direction,” Kellogg said.
Predictably, Kellogg was besieged by well-wishers that night. “I had like over 250 text messages, over a thousand tweets,” he said. “I had to turn my phone off at one point because it was vibrating way too much.”
Larry the Cable Guy tweeted that “I gave him a heart attack,” said Kellogg. “Gabrielle Union actually sent me a tweet saying I looked like Byron Leftwich’s long-lost twin brother, so I tweeted back at her, saying that was kind of ruthless. But she said it was all fun and games.”
Leftwich, a former NFL quarterback, is 6-foot-5 and 250 pounds.
The play was featured on ESPN’s SportsCenter, and “the guy said I had the body of a long-snapper but an arm of a rocket,” said Kellogg, who is listed at 6-1 and 220. “I didn’t really agree with what he said, but it was pretty cool being the ‘top play.’”
With what did he not agree?
“Probably all of it,” Kellogg said.
He released the pass at about his own 45-yard line, which means the ball sailed about 55 yards.
“I’ve watched it, still can’t believe it myself,” he said. “After seeing it again, I can’t believe I actually threw it that far and it actually worked.”
That he was even in position to throw such a pass is as unlikely as the pass itself. He walked on from Omaha Westside High School, choosing to do that over accepting a scholarship from South Dakota State. And he stayed, despite never getting in a game until last season, when he played briefly in four.
Prior to this season, Kellogg had thrown only 11 passes, completing four, including a 5-yarder to Steven Osborne for a touchdown against Idaho State. He had thrown two touchdown passes this season, and his longest pass completion was a 35-yarder to Quincy Enunwa at Purdue.
Enunwa was in the mass of bodies at the goal line. Had the Hail Mary pass worked exactly the way it was planned, he would have tipped the ball.
Kellogg “has a huge personality,” Enunwa said. “He’s one of those guys that’s really talkative. He’s always having fun. He’s not one of those guys that’ll stay in the shadows. He’s going to make sure he’s known. I mean, he goes by ‘RK3,’ you know?”
“RK3” like “RG3,” Washington Redskins quarterback and 2011 Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III.
“That just tells you about his personality,” said Enunwa.