It’s a simple concept, really. It’s the place where you live, the floor you shuffle across in the morning to make a cup of coffee, that special seat you have with just the perfect view of the TV, where your favorite pillow — not too hard, not too soft — sits on the comfiest bed you’ve ever known.
But not for junior Trevor Kelly, a defensive tackle in his first year for the Bears, who began his college career at this weekend’s foe, Sacramento State. For Kelly, “home” transcends the place with walls and floors and ceilings. For Kelly, his home is wherever he’s with the people he cares about the most.
As a kid growing up in the South San Francisco area, “home” was often a Safeway grocery store where his grandfather worked. His mom used to drop Kelly and his three brothers — one older, two younger — off at the store on her way to work, allowing the boys to explore the aisles and, of course, the doughnuts.
“He’s the one who I look up to; he’s the father figure I’ve never had,” Kelly says of his grandfather.
Kelly played football at El Camino High School on both the offensive and defensive line — he was an all-conference selection on both — and was named the Peninsula Athletic League Defensive Player of the Year. He also played baseball and was one of the top wrestlers in the state of California. But coming out of high school, he was considered to be a bit small for a top football player, so his only scholarship offer came from Sacramento State.
“I just jumped on that offer,” Kelly says. “I was just really thankful and blessed for the opportunity.”
He redshirted as a true freshman and was able to get settled on campus. He pursued a degree in civil engineering and made the dean’s list but says it was tough making decisions on his own and really having to establish time management skills.
“Home” became a group of friends, including teammate John Bloomfield, who essentially adopted the older brother role. They hung out every weekend, often volunteering for Feeding America. Kelly and Bloomfield went to Cesar Chavez Park in Sacramento and served food to those who couldn’t afford it.
Kelly felt far away from his family — he considers his three brothers his best friends — so Bloomfield, who was from Sacramento, offered up his family. Kelly and Bloomfield would go to Bloomfield’s house, and Kelly grew close to Bloomfield’s siblings, two sisters and a brother. Even though Kelly is no longer in Sacramento, he still considers them family.
Bloomfield also helped Kelly by giving him someone else to get close to: God.
“I mean, I knew about the Bible, but we’d sit down and go to Bible study and talk about it,” Kelly says. “I pray 40 to 50 times, even during practice. Even during games, you’ll see me. I pray. I pray a lot. I pray for the littlest things, like for strength, for power, for courage, for determination, for motivation; I pray to make sure all my teammates and I stay healthy. That’s just become part of my life after John Bloomfield.”
Kelly says Bloomfield taught him the value of his favorite verse, Matthew 12:26, which states: “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?”
As he thinks about his time as a Hornet, the game that really stands out was his first college football game, one against New Mexico State University. He remembers the Aggies being led onto the field by horses, startling him and doing very little to calm the butterflies that were fluttering around in his stomach. He thought to himself, “‘Holy crap, what did I get myself into?’”
He remembers that he had five tackles and that he even got some time on television. And he remembers what happened to his best friend.
That day, on the field, Bloomfield had a lung collapse in the high altitude of Las Cruces. The lung deteriorated for weeks, and Bloomfield lapsed into a coma. Despite several surgeries, he passed away.
“Whenever I think of Sacramento State, I think of John Bloomfield,” Kelly says.
He continues doing what he and Bloomfield did together: Whenever Kelly goes to a place like Subway here at Cal, he’ll buy an extra sandwich and take it to People’s Park.
“It’s always good helping other people out,” Kelly says. “That’s what puts a smile on my face. (Life) is more than just football, you know?”
After Bloomfield’s passing, Kelly stuck around Sacramento State for the remainder of that year. He liked the team, liked the coaches, liked the environment. In fact, he has a lot of great memories as a member of the team, as a starter.
But after just one season on the field, Kelly decided to transfer to the College of San Mateo, a community college closer to his family, due to undisclosed personal reasons.
His grandpa, Jim Kelly, says he was originally not pleased when he heard about the plan to transfer. But, Kelly told his grandpa that he wasn’t happy at Sacramento State.
“I said, ‘If you’re not happy, you gotta leave. You won’t get the education you want, the athletics you want,’ ” Jim says.
After spending a season at San Mateo, Kelly was ready to find a new school. A number of his teammates were getting offers from schools such as LSU, Alabama and Oregon, so Kelly waited to hear which schools wanted him. The offer from Cal arrived, and it was perfect. He signed his letter of intent in December 2013.
“All I asked him was, ‘Trevor, which diploma would look best on the wall?’ ” Jim says.
Kelly, who is listed at 6-foot-2 and 300 pounds, is currently second on the depth chart behind Mustafa Jalil. He had four tackles in the season opener against Northwestern last week.
“I love Cal,” Kelly says. “I can go home whenever I want. I’m excited, because it gives my family the opportunity to come up here, and they’re so close … I’m really big on family.”
In fact, about 10 members of Kelly’s family made the trek out to Northwestern to watch Kelly play.
“I come from a family where you’re just thankful for everything,” Kelly says. “As I said, I’m just really thankful and blessed for the opportunity, because there’s not many people out here who can do what we do, and there’s many people who wish they could do what we do.”
This weekend, Kelly will again get to see players he considers family. Two of his close friends, defensive lineman Nathan Castro and linebacker Henry Fernandez, both seniors, still play for Sacramento State.
“They’re good football players, so I’m glad I’m not going up against them,” Kelly says. “We know where we come from, so we cheer for each other and wish each other the best of luck. And I tell them to take it easy on us.”
During the game, Bloomfield won’t be far from Kelly’s thoughts. As a spiritual person, Kelly believes that Bloomfield is in heaven watching over him, probably trying to tell him something in Tongan, which the half-Polynesian Kelly understands a bit of.
But he doesn’t want people to feel bad for him about losing such a dear friend. Instead, he’d rather celebrate Bloomfield.
“Be appreciative of everything, because nothing is guaranteed,” Kelly says. “Be appreciative, thankful and smile every day, because a smile can ease the pain away. I still got a smile on my face. The reason I play is for people who can’t play, like him.”
This weekend, Bloomfield’s family is going to make the trip down to Berkeley to watch their pseudo-son play — to get to see the man their son helped mold.
But, more importantly, they’ll get a chance to meet Kelly’s new family: The Cal football team.
Story originally appeared in The Daily Californian.