Greg Kelley, a former Texas high school football player who was legally exonerated last November following a wrongful conviction in 2014 in a child sexual assault case, has signed with Eastern Michigan on a football scholarship.
"I am excited to announce that I have been offered a D1 full ride scholarship to play football for [Eastern Michigan]!!" Kelley said in an Instagram post.
Kelley's case is the subject of "Outcry," a five-hour Showtime documentary series released in July that focuses on his conviction and the six-year attempt to overturn it.
Now 25, Kelley has worked since his conviction to clear his name in hopes of fulfilling a dream of playing college football.
"I've got this opportunity to seize to play football," Kelley told ESPN in February. "It's what I love. And I believe you should do the thing that makes you happy and gives you peace. I want to be free. I want to close this the right way."
"We believe that much of Greg's youth has been taken away from him and we want to give him the opportunity to live out his dream of playing Division I football," Eastern Michigan coach Chris Creighton said Saturday.
Kelley enrolled at the University of Texas in January with the hope of walking on with the Longhorns. He attended a tryout in February but was informed this month that Texas will not be adding any new players to the roster this fall. A 6-foot-1, 215-pound safety, Kelley told ESPN he is excited to "shake off the cobwebs" after seven years away from football and will play at the same rover position at EMU that he played in high school.
Since he moved back to Austin last fall, Kelley has been working out with former Texas running back Jeremy Hills, an elite football trainer. Hills, who trains NFL players including Earl Thomas III and Landon Collins, said he was blown away by what he saw after he initially offered Kelley a chance to work out with him as a favor after following his case in the local news.
"You really start looking at Greg and realize not only can this kid move well, he'll probably play on Saturdays at a big-time program. Like, I realized this wasn't charity work. This was an actual ballplayer."
Kelley's case dates back to 2013, when he was a standout football player in Leander, Texas, who was committed to UTSA. He was arrested during his senior year based on a sexual abuse allegation by a 4-year-old child in an in-home day care at a home where Kelley was staying with a friend and his family.
Kelley was convicted and sentenced to 25 years without the possibility of parole, despite the lack of any physical evidence. He was released on bond in 2017 when Shawn Dick, a newly elected Williamson County district attorney, reopened Kelley's case based on evidence from an appellate lawyer and a subsequent investigation by the Texas Rangers that found fault with the investigation.
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals overturned Kelley's conviction last November, writing that "the system failed him, for it convicted an innocent man." Weeks later, a new judge in the Texas district court where Kelley was originally convicted held a hearing and said, "I declare you innocent, and you are fully exonerated."
For Kelley, finally earning a scholarship is the fulfillment of a goal that he's long held, dating to his childhood.
"I know that these past six years I had to prove myself to save my life so I can prove myself that I can play ball," he said.
Eastern Michigan plays in the MAC, which postponed football until the spring but is discussing a revised fall schedule.