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March 7, 2007

Longhorns' Kelson back where he started

AUSTIN, Texas Drew Kelson believes he has found a home at Texas, even though his nomadic career suggests otherwise.

Kelson signed with Texas as a safety and has since worked out at running back and linebacker. Now he has come full circle after moving from linebacker to safety for his senior season.

All those moves occasionally make the former four-star prospect ponder what he might have accomplished if he'd stayed in one position for his entire career. Rivals.com had rated Kelson as the No. 1 safety prospect in the 2004 recruiting class.

"I do wonder about that sometimes," Kelson said, "but at the same time, I'm really glad. We won a national championship my sophomore year. I wouldn't change anything about my career here. I've really enjoyed it. Now my focus is to go into this final season and be a real leader of the team."

Kelson has learned there are more important things to worry about than the occasional position switch. A tragedy on another campus across the state helped give him that sense of perspective.

He grew up in Houston and played on the same Lamar High School team as Dale Lloyd, who later signed with Rice as a defensive back. Lloyd collapsed during a team workout last fall and died one day later at the age of 19.

"I just remembered how great a kid he was, how hard he worked, how much of a team guy he was," Kelson said. "Sometimes we take things for granted. I had an ankle injury (last year), and I was frustrated about that. Guys have injuries all the time. But when someone loses his life, it kind of makes you stop and think about the little things. The little injuries I get the nicks and bruises those are nothing. Life is important. I definitely keep his family in my prayers."

Lloyd's death didn't make Kelson any more nervous about the dangers of playing football. It instead gave him even more cause to cherish this opportunity.

"You can't waste a step," Kelson said. "You can't waste a day. You never know, even at this age, when your last day's coming."

Kelson's most recent position switch gives him one more reason to savor his upcoming senior season. He finally has returned to his natural spot on the field.

Kelson collected 18 tackles as a reserve linebacker last year despite missing the Longhorns' first three games with an ankle problem, but he believes the safety position best suits his 6-foot-2, 215-pound frame.

Texas coaches are hoping his status as a senior will help provide leadership to a secondary that must replace three of last year's starters, including Thorpe Award winner Aaron Ross.

"He's a quick study," defensive coordinator Duane Akina said. "He's doing a great job. You can't help but root for him. He's a solid guy. He's a leader on the team. He'll find a way to get on the field."

Injuries and other factors have kept Kelson from getting on the field as much as he'd like.

Although he signed with Texas as a safety, Kelson spent most of his freshman year backing up Cedric Benson at running back. He moved back to safety the following spring before switching to linebacker, where he played the last two years.

He carries that versatility over to other sports.

Kelson occasionally spends his spare time bowling with roommate Frank Okam, a senior defensive tackle. Kelson says he averages about 140-150 on his good days, while Okam can range anywhere from 80 to 180.

He'd like to start playing a third sport as soon as possible.

"I got a set of golf clubs last November that I haven't touched yet," Kelson said. "I haven't golfed since my senior year of high school. I plan on getting back out there."

Kelson's latest position switch assures he won't have much time to play golf in the near future.

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