By Tyler Devine
IOWA CITY, Iowa – Over a decade after being in Kinnick Stadium as a Kid Captain, Liberty High’s Kelby Telander will soon be on the field in a Hawkeye uniform after accepting a preferred walk-on opportunity at Iowa.
Telander, who received a cochlear implant as a child, hopes that his story can serve as inspiration for other children in similar positions.
“(Being a Kid Captain) just makes the experience 10 times more exciting and special,” Telander said. “I hope it leads to inspiring other Kid Captains that they can accomplish anything in the world regardless of what adversity has been thrown at them.
“Also, I hope that Kid Captains never feel shy or embarrassed due to the circumstances they’ve been given. If anything, they should feel very proud of themselves because they are 10 times tougher and cooler than the average person considering everything they’ve gone through at that young age, which separates those young kids in such an inspiring and unique way from the crowd.”
The 6-foot-4, 205-pound Telander said Wake Forest, Drake, Davidson, Western Kentucky, Nebraska and South Dakota also were considering walk-on spots, but his recruitment was made difficult when he was not able to play his senior season due to a freak accident at home.
While repairing a glass chandelier in his family’s kitchen, the chandelier fell to the floor, and Telander went with it, landing on the pile of broken glass.
The fall resulted in six torn flexor tendons, nerve and artery damage.
The recovery process, which Telander said felt like it was going nowhere at times, was just as, if not more taxing mentally as it was physically.
Telander said he feels 100% now and was still able to be involved with the football team during the fall, acting as a coach and signal caller for the quarterback.
“It was the hardest thing ever seeing my close friends play under the Friday night lights but not being able to compete with them,” Telander said. “There were many late nights where I couldn’t help but cry myself to sleep knowing I was never going to get the chance to step on that field with the boys one last time as a senior and showcase everything I worked for up until that point.
“But then again, I had amazing role model coaches who took me under their wing and showed me other ways to still be a leader on the team.”
Telander will go to Iowa as a versatile athlete who previously earned All-Conference honors in basketball and track and field.
Had he played football in the fall, Telander said he would have played a combination of quarterback, wide receiver, outside linebacker and free safety depending on the opponent.
The Iowa coaching staff envisions Telander playing either tight end or outside linebacker, he said.
Whichever position he ends up playing, Telander said the Iowa coaches are confident he will be able to handle the challenges that come with being a walk-on.
“Their message to me when they offered was that it’s going to be hard at times especially during the first year,” Telander said. “But they mentioned it’s not the first time I’ve dealt with adversity considering I’ve had a cochlear implant my whole life and had to deal with never stepping on the field one last time as a senior.”