Rookie RB Joshua Kelley moves on from UCLA days to create Chargers memories

Joshua Kelley learned he’s an irritable person after dealing with the limitations caused by the coronavirus pandemic, a somewhat shocking revelation coming from the cheery Chargers rookie running back.

“I didn’t know,” Kelley said Friday in a Zoom interview. “There’s people who try to be like, ‘Oh, man. This dude is cool. He’s really nice.’ I didn’t know how irritable I am. How really annoyed I get.”

It’s hard to believe Kelley’s self discovery, especially after he smiled throughout his 20-minute interview where he thanked reporters for questions and showered teammates with praises.

At one point, the jolly former UCLA standout said the word “great” nine times to describe Chargers rookie quarterback Justin Herbert in various ways.

“He’s a great dude,” Kelley said about Herbert. “He’s literally a great human being. He’s a great man. He’s a great person. Great quarterback. …. He’s just a great person. He’s a great leader, too. … He’s got great (throwing) touch, great accuracy.”

Kelley mentioned his family, girlfriend and former teammates can attest to his irritable personality claim.

But there was no need to ask them after he provided a glimpse into his easily annoyed side.

UCLA running back Joshua Kelley runs for a first down against the USC Trojans in the first half of a NCAA football game at the Rose Bowl on Saturday, November 17, 2018 in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

“I’m kinda getting tired of hearing about it every time I’m in Westwood, to be honest,” Kelley said about his 289 rushing yards against rival USC in 2018. “I gotta make sure I have some more moments like that at this level.”

Kelley is fine with being the hometown kid from Lancaster, but he’s done talking about his high school and college days. The 2020 fourth-round selection now wants to make plays for the Chargers, but he understands it’s a learning process that will require patience.

As of now, Kelley is likely listed third on the Chargers’ training-camp depth chart behind Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson.

Kelley isn’t viewing the two athletic running backs as competition because he knows the two proven veterans will get their carries regardless of what he does in training-camp practices.

Instead, he’s been focused on getting acclimated during rookie practices this week, and plans to ask for plenty of help from his teammates once the veterans hit the practice field Monday.

“We have two veteran backs who have been here a long time, Ekeler and Jackson,” Kelley said. “They’ve been here quite a bit. They’re great backs. I’m just trying to learn from them. They’re going to be seeing the field a lot this year. … For me, I just have to soak all the knowledge like a sponge.”

Kelley hasn’t felt the pressure of trying to fit in because Ekeler has invited him to watch film and for workouts since being drafted in April. The 2019 breakout star who’s known for doing one-arm pull-ups didn’t go easy on the rookie.

“He’s an animal, man,” Kelley said about Ekeler. “He’s different. I haven’t worked out with a lot of guys like him. I gotta say, my body was definitely feeling it after.”

Perhaps there could be a camp battle between Kelley and Jackson for the No. 2 position, but with the Chargers expected to move to a run-heavy offense, there could be enough carries for all three.

Kelley’s opportunities might come in short-yardage situations. The 5-foot-11, 212-pound running back was known for his power and ability to run in between tackles during his two seasons at UCLA, where he posted back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons.

Kelley wants to move on from his UCLA days because he doesn’t want to settle at the next level, but he can’t forget the good times in Westwood.

“I already moved on. I forgot all about it,” Kelley said about his standout performance against USC.  “I can’t say that. That’s not true.”

Kelley wants to use his story as a UCLA walk-on and UC Davis transfer to inspire the youth in his hometown of Lancaster. The Eastside High graduate was hoping to do that this past offseason but couldn’t because of the pandemic.

“I would love to share knowledge from these past few years with those high school kids now and give them some hope that they can do it because Lancaster is a desert place,” Kelley said. “It’s not really a lot of people that you know that come out from there. It would be awesome to get a chance to talk to those guys.”

Kelley was raised by his mother, Jacqueline, the person he thanks the most for the position he’s in today. He’ll have to wait to share his story in person, but when he does, he might have a few good Chargers stories to tell.

For now, he’ll remain patient for his opportunity and he’ll likely do it with a smile. The opposite of an irritable person.