Holliston trailed by two scores in the second game of the 2021 Fall II season when a broken pass play quickly turned into a serious injury. As its starting quarterback exited the field, head coach Todd Kiley turned to his son, second-string QB TJ Kiley, to tell him to go lead the offense.
Given the circumstances for a sophomore, Todd wasn’t sure how it would go. He knew TJ would play hard as a competitor, but at the drop of a pin, he was impressed with his composure in the role.
It wasn’t exactly a miracle moment to lead a comeback, but it definitely foreshadowed what would come from the undersized, 5-foot-7 quarterback.
“Not sure he was quite ready at that time, but you know what, he dove into it without hesitation and competed,” Todd said. “Kind of thrown into the fire and he proved a lot to his teammates and his head coach that he belonged in that spot.”
What the records show over the last two years since TJ took over the starting role is a veteran-laden Holliston (7-1) group taking the fourth seed in this year’s Div. 4 state tournament, just one year after a young 6-5 group missed the playoffs. Hidden within that, though, is the momentum the Panthers have snowballed into a serious bid for a deep run – anchored in part by the leadership and determination of the young man under center.
As winner in 12 of its last 13 games dating back to last year, this group has surged to a share of the Tri-Valley League title with the offense averaging over 33 points per game. TJ has grown alongside a large crew of significant contributors that took a little bit of time to click into gear last year, playing his part with 20 passing touchdowns and 1,454 yards. It’s an impressive feat considering this success started in the middle of TJ’s first year really throwing the ball as QB last year, mostly to a bunch of receivers who had never caught a varsity ball entering that season.
TJ is just pleased to play his part in a well-oiled machine.
“That means everything (to produce 33 points per game), points win games,” he said. “It’s definitely not just me, football is the biggest team sport in the whole world and it takes every guy, every single play to do their job. … This year has been a very special year to me. Last year too, but this year, we have really improved in a lot of areas. It’s showing every week.”
The pre-game routine Todd does with his quarterbacks hasn’t changed much over the years, but with his son, he throws in a hug and words of affection before the boys go to battle. Without that, though, you’d never know TJ is his son on the football field.
TJ only refers to Todd as “Coach,” in practice and games. Todd doesn’t give TJ exceptions and is actually a little harder on him than most. Not only because he’s his son, but it’s the quarterback who leads the offense.
Todd knows the specialty of being a part of what his son has accomplished, and will watch film as a coach before watching it a second time as a father. But there’s a certain level of focus required to accomplish what Holliston strives for this year, and Todd appreciates just how locked in TJ and the rest of the team have been.
He and his son can reminisce after the final whistle – though it’s hard to ignore the paternal joy.
“I’m sure I’ll enjoy it when the season is over, but in the grind of it all, you’re just constantly working for that next week,” he said. “We’re just going to work, grabbing our lunch pails every day. It’s just been a pleasure. … Obviously I’m proud of (TJ), just like I’m proud of my other son and everything he does. I’m proud he’s flourishing like he is under the pressure he plays under. It’s not easy being the coach’s kid for many reasons, but it doesn’t faze him.”
TJ and the Panthers are hoping that final whistle doesn’t come until the week after Thanksgiving at Gillette Stadium. And that’s why the senior quarterback takes full advantage of having his quarterbacks coach just down the hallway at home.
That comes by the handful, much to the amusement of a father more than comfortable with leaving the football talk at the door.
“We barely missed playoffs last year … it definitely left a bad taste in our mouths,” TJ said. “It’s important for everyone and we don’t want to leave any stone unturned. … It helps to talk at home with him. On the field as well, but obviously at home I have an advantage to talk with him about game plan and practice plan and all that. It’s a huge advantage.”
NAME: TJ Kiley
SCHOOL: Holliston High School
HEIGHT/WEIGHT: 5’7″, 145
FAMILY: Todd Kiley (dad), Sarah Kiley (mom) & Brent Kiley (brother)
ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 1st team TVL All Star, 3-year varsity starter, Metro West Daily News player of the week, winning 12 out of our last 13 games, Winning TVL (at least a share) and sharing Holliston passing records the past two years with my WR’s, RB & O-Line.
FAVORITE PERSONAL MOMENT IN SPORTS: Beating Hopkinton to clinch at least a share of the TVL title.
FAVORITE COURSE IN SCHOOL: Ceramics
LEAST FAVORITE COURSE IN SCHOOL: Math
FAVORITE PIGOUT FOOD: A chicken stack at Moes
FAVORITE TV SHOW: Game of Thrones
FAVORITE MOVIE: Remember the Titans
FAVORITE MUSICIAN: Future
FAVORITE VIDEO GAME: Starwars Battlefront 2
FAVORITE SMARTPHONE APP: Snapchat
FAVORITE TWITTER ACCOUNT TO FOLLOW: Danny Ventura
FAVORITE PRO TEAM: New England Patriots
FAVORITE ATHLETE(S): My Holliston Panther football team brothers
HOW DO YOU PREPARE FOR A GAME: I listen to my music with my headphones on and go into a mental state where I’m calm and focused before the storm. I roll out my whole body and do my arm care routine. Lastly I warm up my arm more with my indoor throwing routine.
IF YOU COULD BE SOMEONE ELSE FOR A DAY, WHO WOULD IT BE: Tom Brady
CAREER AMBITIONS: To be hard working and successful wherever my path leads me.