For the first time in its brief 11-year history, the Shorter University football team will take the field this fall under the direction of a new head coach as Aaron Kelton has been named to lead the Hawks, the University announced today.
“We are very thrilled to announce Aaron as our next head football coach,” Shorter Director of Athletics Kim Graham said about the hiring of Kelton, who comes to Shorter after serving as the head coach at Division III Williams College (Mass.) and has coached at every NCAA level for the past 20 years. “He is a fantastic person that has head coaching experience and believes in the Shorter mission. His coaching and recruiting experience at NCAA Division l, ll and lll institutions will help him as he leads the team forward.”
“Coach Kelton is a wonderful addition to the Shorter University family,” Shorter President Dr. Don Dowless said of the Hawks’ new coach. “His experience as a head coach and his commitment to Christian higher education are a great combination and meshes well with the University’s mission. He appreciates the uniqueness of our University and is well prepared to lead us into the future.”
“It’s an exciting time for me and my family,” said Kelton, 47, who will become the Gulf South Conference’s first-ever African American head football coach. “I’m humbled by it and very appreciative to Dr. Dowless and Kim Graham for this opportunity.”
“We’re ready to get to Rome and get things going,” he said, “do positive things for the program and get on a winning track.”
Kelton becomes just the second head football coach at Shorter, assuming the position held by Phil Jones, who started the program 11 years ago, establish the Hawks as one of the top NAIA teams in the nation and eventually guided the team into the NCAA Division II ranks that plays in the Gulf South Conference.
“Coach Jones did a great job getting the program started and we’re looking forward to continuing the tradition he established,” Kelton said, adding that the “relationship” foundation – with God and each other – Jones built the program on will remain the cornerstone of fulfilling Shorter’s mission. “We’ll continue to do God’s work.”
Born and raised in Boston, Kelton graduated from Wellesley High School, where he was a three-sport athlete, competing in football, basketball, and baseball, then attended Springfield (Mass.) College where he obtained a bachelor’s degree in psychology and lettered all four years for the Pride in football, starting his final two years at quarterback.
After breaking into the coaching ranks on the high school level at his alma mater and at Wayland (Mass.) High School, Kelton joined the college ranks in 1996 as an assistant at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, spent four season on the staffs at Division II Clarion and Concord universities and from 2001-05 served as the defensive coordinator at Virginia State, a Division II program that competes in the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA).
In 2006, he was hired as the defensive backs coach at Division I Ivy League member Columbia University and in 2008 became the Lions’ defensive coordinator for two seasons before assuming his first head coaching stint at Williams College in Williamstown, Mass., in 2010.
Kelton made an immediate statement in his first season with the Ephs, which competes in the New England Small College Athletic Association, leading the team to a perfect 8-0 record, the first ever recorded by a first-year head coach in the school’s 125-year history, and was named the 2010 NESCAC Coach of the Year. He also served as an assistant professor of physical education at Williams, where he posted a 23-25 record.
During his career, Kelton received four NFL Bill Walsh Fellowships, which enabled him to serve as a member of the coaching staffs of the Arizona Cardinals in 2009, Indianapolis Colts in 2007, Jacksonville Jaguars in 2008, and the Miami Dolphins in 2013. He also attended the NCAA Expert Coaches Academy in Miami in May 2006.
Kelton is currently working on completing masters degree in integrated studies from Virginia State and he and his wife Charlotte are the proud parents of a daughter, Kelsi.
“We want to get to Rome as soon as we can and get started. There’s so much to be done,” Kelton said, noting that he is eager to meet the team and the coaching staff and evaluate what needs to be done to move the Hawks forward, as well as becoming actively involved in the recruiting process that is now taking place.
“When you’re in a conference that, year in and out, you have teams ranked in the top 25, you have to continue to improve in order to be competitive,” said Kelton, who wants the Hawks to be a team that is fast, aggressive and fundamentally sound. “But there’s no reason why we can’t win games and show the conference that we are a team to contend with.
“We’re in a talent-rich area and we feel we can provide opportunities for young men to be successful.”
“Aaron is a very passionate and enthusiastic person,” Graham said, “that will be able to move the football program forward as we pursue excellence on the field, in the classroom, and in the community.”
“This is a great time for Shorter football,” Kelton said. “It’s a blessed time.”