Lexington resident Brendan Kelly knows he can be the first American Ninja Warrior. After all, as the saying goes, it's not bragging if you can back it up.
In true ninja fashion, Kelly, an All-American safety and return specialist and track standout at the University of the Cumberlands in Williamsburg, can't reveal just how he fared in the extreme obstacle course competition, taped recently in Miami. His minder from G4TV, which airs the show along with NBC, said only, "He does very well."
Kelly, 22, said coyly that most of the time when he puts his mind to something, "I am very successful."
"The only reason I wanted to do it (the show) was so I could win," he said earlier this week.
Kelly's first round, a qualifying competition, airs Sunday on G4. If he makes it through that round, he will appear in a regional final, airing Monday on NBC.
But Kelly's story starts years ago, when he began watching the first incarnation of the show, Ninja Warrior. In that competition, athletes vied for a chance to go to Japan to compete in what the Web site describes as "a challenge of Olympic proportions that is designed to test the limits of human ability." The latest version of the show features people from across the United States vying for the first-ever title of "American Ninja Warrior."
Kelly, who played football at Henry Clay High School, always thought he could compete. But it was his dad, Pat, who filled out the casting application for the show.
Brendan Kelly's rock-solid physique — he's 5-foot-9 and weighs 165 pounds — was impressive, as was his college athletic prowess, but his athletic journey took a bit of a detour.
Eighteen months ago, he underwent five surgeries in 12 days because of acute compartment syndrome, a rare disorder that destroyed muscle in his calf. His career in sports seemed in jeopardy. But instead of the expected five months of recovery, Kelly was back running and practicing in about six weeks.
He said the persistence and faith that helped him through that ordeal will serve him well on American Ninja Warrior.
Even being able to compete, he said, "shows how good God can be."
"I'm doing things that I am not supposed to be able to do," he said.
Actively training for track and football, he didn't have to do much to amp up physically. But, he said, a lot of the ninja game is mental.
On the course, he said, "it's more about patience and controlling yourself. It's about making sure that you pay attention to every one" of the obstacles.
"It's more of a precision thing than it is just strength," he said.
If he wins, there is a prize: $500,000. Kelly said he'd probably put the money in the bank until it's clear where his sports career might take him. Someday he'd like to own an extreme-fitness gym.
He said he'd relish being the first American Ninja Warrior.
"No one could ever boast of that before," he said.