Apparently forgetting his Pacific-time-zone roots, Chip Kelly talked to us in the Seattle media on a conference call from Philadelphia this morning -- at 6:45 a.m.
The former Oregon Ducks coach is leading his 9-3 Eagles into Sunday's game against the 8-4 Seahawks at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia. Kelly recalled the the day in the fall of 2010 he visited Pete Carroll in Carroll's first season as Seahawks coach, to see how he ran practice. Kelly said he also visited Jim Harbaugh's practices with the 49ers and those at the Air Force Academy while he was Oregon's coach. In Renton in 2010, he was struck with how fast-paced yet organized Carroll's workout was.
"It really wasn’t an interest in Seattle, per se," Kelly said. "When you’re a college coach, you take a lot of visits during the spring and you watch people during the spring practice. But I always wanted to visit people in-season because you obviously practice different in the spring than you do in the fall. I was just fortunate—I knew Pete from being in the Pac-12 with him and I couldn’t visit any other Pac-12s in-season so I visited a lot of schools.
"I was impressed with how organized his practices were, what attention to detail he has and the small minutiae things that people think may be minutiae but they can be the difference in winning and losing a game. How he covered situational football all the time, how he puts his teams in competitive situations. It’s impressive to watch one of Pete’s practices."
Carroll remembers Kelly, his former Pac-12 coaching rival when Carroll was at USC, visiting that Seahawks mid-week, in-season practice.
"I’m sure he regrets that tremendously because of all the things that he shared with me," Carroll said.
Kelly laughed at that joke.
"I was the one asking all the questions and getting all the answers," Kelly said.
Kelly also revealed he hosted Russell Wilson on a tour of Oregon's athletic facilities in the summer of 2010, when Wilson was a second baseman for the Tri-City Dust Devils of the Class-A short season Northwest League. Wilson was graduating from North Carolina State, where he had redshirted one season, in four years and had one year of football eligibility remaining after graduation.
"He came down and played with the Eugene Emeralds when he was at NC State at the time so I got a chance to show him around our facilities at Oregon," Kelly said this morning. "And from that day, he was just a mature young man and you knew he was going to be successful no matter what he ended up doing, whether it was baseball or football."
Now even though the sun wasn't yet up it dawned on me that Kelly doesn't show off Oregon's fancy, Nike-fueled digs to every infielder in the lowest level of Class-A baseball. See, Wilson at the time was essentially a college free agent, able to play football in 2011 for any school as a fifth-year transfer who by NCAA rules because he already would have a degree would be eligible to play for his new program immediately.
I asked Kelly if he was interested in Wilson to become a quarterback for the Ducks for the 2011 season. Kelly said no way.
"No, we were never involved at that point in time," Kelly said. "We had a starting quarterback that (later, at the end of the 2010 season) led us to the national championship game in Darron Thomas. So I think Russell probably targeted some places."
But in the summer of 2010 Thomas was a redshirt sophomore who was coming off sitting out a year and had yet to lead Kelly's Ducks into the BCS title game against Auburn at the end of the 2010 season.
Thomas went on to lead Oregon to the Rose Bowl at the end of the 2011 season against Wisconsin -- who had, you got it, Russell Wilson as its fifth-year transfer quarterback.
--By the way, I found this video of Wilson, second baseman for the Asheville Tourists of the Class-A South Atlantic League, from the summer before he quarterbacked Wisconsin and eventually got drafted by Carroll and the Seahawks in the third round in 2012.