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Libertyville's Kelley a Finalist for Distinguished Sullivan Award

State qualifying diver and football player still found time to help out his community.

First a heads up to college recruiters. This talented student is not available. Teddy Kelley has chosen Wheaton College for his studies and most likely can’t be tampered with.

Kelley made news in the winter when he was Libertyville High School’s top diver during swimming season. He also flashed off his No. 7 during football season.

Now why is Kelley in the news come summer? He’s one of the top eight finalists nationally for the High School AAU Sullivan Award. This distinguished contest, that carries a cash prize, has been around since 1930. However, the AAU has added high school candidates this year and Kelley is in the running.

Why is Kelley in the running here? His resume offers a big hint. From the sports world comes an AAU All-American honor in diving. And this year he was unbeaten during the regular season. In football, he played all four years. But this award isn’t just for sports. His academic career was a success, too. Naturally, he was in the National Honor Society with a 3.9 grade average. He also was an Illinois State Scholar.

But wait, there is more. He’s served as a student ministry team leader, book drive worker, recreation volunteer and meal packer. He also went on three mission trips.

Where does Kelley find the time for all of these worthwhile activities?

“I sleep when I can,’’ Kelley said. “I don’t watch much TV except for a little ESPN.”

Here a little of what Libertyville Principal Marina Scott wrote to the AAU committee.

“One could debate which of Theodore Kelley’s achievements is most impressive – his competitive diving record, or his straight-A performance in his classroom,’’ Scott wrote. “As his principal, I believe the answer is neither. What surpasses them both is Teddy’s genuine interest in people and his ability to use his leadership skills to not only believe in him but in themselves.”

Kelley is grateful to Scott and the coaches and administrators who helped write letters on his behalf.

“I am sure that it was because of their strong letters of recommendation that I was even considered for this award and made it as a finalist,’’ he said.

Now this might look like this is the perfect young man. But his busy athletic career has taken a toll. There were those three concussions sustained in football, and a shoulder surgery as well. Still, he still wants to play football at Wheaton College.

Before settling in on Wheaton, Kelley explored options at Notre Dame and Air Force.

“I decided that I would either dive or play football,’’ he said.

Now what is this gifted student planning to do with the rest of his life? His major at Wheaton will be applied health.

“Maybe physical therapy,’’ he said. “I want to work with people.”

Kelley learned at early age that there were less-fortunate people than him.

“It’s not all about me,’’ he said. “I’m blessed with food. It’s about helping other people.”

Kelley  seems most proud of the service trips he went on in high school. There was the trip to Mexico to build houses in 2009. The summer before that, he and others headed to western Kentucky to help with home repairs. The Chicago Service Project in 2007 had Kelley working in soup kitchens.

“You have to make concessions,’’ Kelley said. “You just can’t hang out all the time.”

To vote for Kelley in the sweepstakes to win the Sullivan Award, head for www.usatoday.com/sports and scroll down to the high school section. Voting ends July 4.

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