The retirement lasted almost 18 months.
Longtime coach Jude Kelly will be back on the sidelines this fall for the Weaver football team. Kelly announced his retirement from St. Paul in February of 2020.
The team will play a junior varsity schedule this fall, with the hopes to make the jump to a varsity team next season.
“I love the game of football,” Kelly said. “I’ve said this to several people, high school football is in my mind is the best thing in high school education.
“There are so many life skills that come out of the game.”
Weaver athletic director Sterling Scanlon said that bringing in Kelly was a perfect fit for the program.
“We wanted our Hartford kids to have the same equity as everyone in the state to learn the game of football,” Scanlon said. “There is the no better person to teach the game of the football than Jude Kelly.”
Kelly coached East Catholic to three state titles in the 1980s, deploying the wishbone offense. He then coached at Southington for 17 years, with his Air Raid offense winning the state title in 1998.
From 2005 to 2019 he led St. Paul in Bristol, coaching NFL first-round pick and former UConn star Byron Jones. He also coached Logan Marchi, who is second in state history with 9,702 passing yards and tied for second with 112 passing touchdowns.
Kelly has won 250 games, good for eighth all-time.
“It’s a new challenge, a new thing,” Kelly said. “I felt like I could give back a couple of more.”
Scanlon said that when the renovated athletic facilities opened in 2020 — a year after the school re-opened in 2019 — he wanted to bring back a stand-alone varsity football program to the school that won state titles in 1996, 1997 and 1999.
Weaver played its final game as its own team in 2014 and the next year began as a co-op with Bulkeley and HMTCA.
“It doesn’t have the same ring as Weaver Football,” Scanlon said.
Scanlon said after posting the job he spoke to those interested and explained that it would be a junior varsity job with varsity coach pay, and that he wanted someone who would build a program.
“That was kind of the ace in the hole there for me, I agreed with him wholeheartedly,” Kelly said. “To get into a varsity schedule with teams that have been playing together, wasn’t a fair thing to do with the kids. Going to the junior varsity level and playing with the younger kids and building from there made sense.”
When Kelly reached out to him about the position, he was excited.
“I hoped it was more than a ‘I’m kind of interested,’ ” Scanlon said. “I am excited to see how he can build this program and grow the excitement in the building.”
Scanlon said the junior varsity team has three games on the schedule so far and are looking to add more. He added that they have about 40 kids interested in playing and the team’s first meeting is Thursday.
Scanlon hopes that for the 2022 season, Kelly and the new varsity team will play the first ever game under the lights at Weaver on the turf field that opened three years ago in Hartford.