When you start from the bottom, there is a greater appreciation for reaching the top.
In the case of Mervo senior quarterback Kelin Kimbrough, who has already eclipsed 1,000 yards passing to go with double-digit touchdowns while leading the Mustangs to a 5-0 start this fall, it’s the journey to this point that keeps him focused on what’s in front of him.
“I know that everything that I’ve got right now, I’ve worked for,” Kimbrough said. “I just know that nothing was given to me. It feels good when you see growth in your game as a player and when others recognize you.”
Every year has been a work in progress for Kimbrough, beginning with his time at Mervo as junior varsity backup quarterback. He eventually was moved to varsity to fill a need as a backup, before finally becoming a starter during his junior year in 2018.
Looking back at his progressions with each passing season, it’s been all about slowing the game down — focusing on footwork, reading the defense and avoiding turnovers by driving the ball down the field.
“I can’t say enough positive things about Kelin. He’s just come such a long way,” Mervo head coach Patrick Nixon said. “We talk all of the time as a coaching staff about the young man that walked through our door as a freshman versus the young man that stands before us — on and off of the field he’s just turned it completely around.
“He’s a great student, he studies the game, he’s like a coach on the field. … He worked his tail off to get to this point.”
Last fall, in his first season as the starter, Kimbrough led Mervo to the school’s first Class 4A North title. In the region final victory over Paint Branch, he threw for 187 yards and three touchdowns.
That success has carried over to this season.
Kimbrough kicked his 2019 season off with a three-touchdown performance against Dunbar in Baltimore’s first Kickoff Classic. The Mustangs have followed that opening win with victories over Poly, Lake Clifton, City and Edmondson with Kimbrough accumulating 1,175 passing yards, 207 rushing yards and a combined 16 touchdowns.
His success starts with preparation.
The typical day of practice for Kimbrough begins with stretches and throwing with his receivers who aren’t return specialists. He goes over the quick game, routes and timing with quarterback coach Tavon Smith.
Time in the film room is critical as well, analyzing the coverage of the defenses so he can make checks at the line of scrimmage. It’s this kind of preparation that gives his coaches confidence in him to make his own play calls during games.
But for as good as the start to this year has been, Kimbrough will be the first to point out it’s not about being great now; it’s about being great come postseason.
“It’s hard because you’ve got to stop guys from getting content. So, that’s my main thing is to stay competitive in practice, just making sure I’m giving the defense a challenge every day,” he said. “The main thing is that when you start off great, is to keep getting better every week and cleaning things up that you’re sloppy at.”
Kimbrough hopes to play Division I college football, but so far he has drawn recruiting interest from only smaller schools, including Bowie State, Fairmont State and Frostburg State.
He carries a 3.1 grade-point average.
“I really don’t pay a lot of attention to it," Kimbrough said of recruiting. "I know a lot of schools are high on me. They are just waiting for my senior year to conclude. I just have to take my SAT again and get a better score. Everything will take care of itself recruiting wise.”