Ky’el Hemby, an Abingdon resident and 2016 John Carroll School graduate, is looking forward to the 2021 National Football League Draft.
Hemby, a 6-1, 220-pound defensive back, recently closed out his college football career at the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg as a three-year member of the Golden Eagles’ football program.
Later this month, Hemby, 22, will be heading south again, but this time to Florida to train to be potentially drafted into the NFL in April.
“I’m in the process of signing with an agency and stuff, but I do plan to train in the Miami area with a known trainer,” Hemby said late last week. “My trainer here told me he’s a good trainer and that sealed the deal for me.”
Hemby said he has always had an interest in playing professionally.
“It’s something I always told myself. If I work hard and I put in the work, I can do it. Each level I played on, I felt like the chances got closer and closer to me,” Hemby said. “Once I went to FBS (Football Bowl Subdivision) and I played, it just seemed like it would get easier. A lot of my coaches were telling me, man you got like a rare talent that we’ve seen, just keep it up, keep pushing and all of your dreams will come true. That kind of motivated me as well.”
In his final year as a redshirt senior at Southern Miss, Hemby (10 games) made 73 tackles (42 solo, 31 assist) and 2.5 of those tackles were for loss. He also had one interception, four pass breakups and a blocked kick.
In his redshirt junior year, Hemby played and started in all 13 games, leading the team in tackles with 93 (58 solo).
He also posted a tackle for loss and two interceptions to go along with three breakups and he had at least seven tackles in eight different games. Hemby was one of 46 players named to the Jim Thorpe preseason Watch List for top defensive back prior to that redshirt junior season.
In his redshirt sophomore year, he earned second-team All-Conference USA honors and finished third in the nation for total interceptions (six). He tallied 51 tackles on the year (38 for loss) and recorded career-highs of eight stops against Charlotte and UAB and had seven more against North Texas and UTSA.
“Honestly, I’m just blessed for the opportunity. It was a solid three years and this year was a very hard year with us,” Hemby said about his time at Southern Miss. “I was just happy that I was able to play football because football makes me happy. Over the three years, I’m surely blessed and am thankful just for the opportunity to make bonds with my teammates, my coaches, our fans.”
Hemby added, “I feel like this culture at Southern Miss was just a culture that you can’t match. It was different, regardless of the competition level, the conference and stuff like that, it was just a great ride and I’m definitely going to miss it.”
Hemby graduated in the Spring of 2020 with a sports management degree. He also has his associates degree from Iowa Western Community College, where he went after graduating from John Carroll. Hemby says he plans to pursue his masters degree one day.
At Iowa Western CC, as a redshirt freshman, Hemby totaled a team-high 81 tackles. He also had 4.5 tackles-for-loss with an interception and three pass breakups.
Despite the success, Hemby knew he wanted bigger things from football.
“Southern Miss was my first opportunity, I had 4-5 offers, they were the first BCS level offer. I took a visit there, me and my parents, just to see what they had to offer,” he said. “I felt like on my trip there, it was everything I needed. I feel as though with my situation, coming from junior college with three years of eligibility, it was like the best situation for me and I enjoyed it on my visit. It gave me a family feeling, all the coaches made me feel wanted. It was the best place for me. Southern Miss was the perfect opportunity for me.”
Hemby also remembers his time at John Carroll. “My time at John Carroll was amazing. I only went there my junior and senior years,” Hemby said.
Hemby had started high school at Aberdeen, where he studied for two quarters. He then transferred to Patterson Mill, before moving over to John Carroll for the final two years of high school.
He remembers his first football season at John Carroll. The Patriots went 5-5 and four of the five losses were by a combined 10 points.
That initiated a little fire for Hemby and his teammates. In his senior year, the Patriots went 12-0 and were MIAA B Conference champions.
“That was the best feeling ever, knowing all the work we put in and we put it in together,” Hemby said.
Fast forward to today and Hemby is again hoping hard work pays off with him hearing his name called on draft day.
“That will be the day when I finally sit and just think, all the hard work paid off. Once I signed to Southern Miss, the work paid off, but we have more work to do, and then that will be the next big step. Of course, I will still take the same way, it’s a blessing, a huge step, we still got work to do. It’s always continuous work,” Hemby said. “You visualize things and I feel like it’s a huge possibility for me.”
Hemby says that vision, the possibility, played a role in his decision to push on, not do another year of college. “I’ve already done five years of college ball and it’s time for me to move on and make the next step,” he said.
“I’m a big Ravens guy, but I would be blessed to receive an opportunity from anyone. Regardless of being drafted or picked up as a free agent, as long I as I’m given an opportunity, I can leave my legacy anywhere,” he added. “I’ve never been that guy that’s heavily recruited. I’ve always been like an underdog, maybe the last one in, maybe the last one on the lineup, but when I’m done, I always leave my mark. I work for everything. I just want the opportunity...just to be able to win. That’s just big on me.”