Leroy Kelly: Pos: RB, Career: 136 G, 90 TD (32nd), 7274 Yds (61st), 4.2 Y/A, 3xAll-Pro(1st), 6xProBowl, Browns 1964-1973, 2x Yds Leader, born PA 1942
- May 20, 1942
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Leroy Kelly, in a 10-year tenure with the Cleveland Browns from 1964 through 1973, established himself as one of the most feared ball carriers in the history of the National Football League. Overall, he rushed for 7,274 yards and ranked among the top 20 all-time rushers until midway through 1993 season.
- Early Years
- Morgan State
- Special Teams Demon
- Kelly Becomes The Starter in 1966
- 1967 & 1968
- 1969 & 1970
- 1971 & 1972
- Life After Retirement
Leroy Kelly was born on May 20, 1942 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. From the start, Kelly and his younger brother, Pat, were sports enthusiasts. Pat Kellywould eventually play 15 years in Major League Baseball as an outfielder. Leroy Kelly was a multi-sport star at Simon Gratz High School in Philadelphia. He was a letterman in football, baseball, and basketball. On the Gratz High football team, Kelly was the quarterback, middle linebacker, punter, kick return specialist, and also kicked off. Despite his athletic nature, colleges didn’t exactly beat down his door as he prepared to graduate. Kelly had chosen to study mechanics and, therefore, had not taken a college preparatory class. That made college recruiters wary that Kelly could survive academically in college. Looking at his slim options, Kelly chose the school that offered him the best opportunity to succeed at the next level.
Morgan State University in Baltimore offered Kelly a half scholarship for football as well as a job. After accepting the offer, Kelly headed east. During his first few practices with the Bears, Kelly tried his hand at quarterback. However, coach Earl Banks noted Kelly’s lack of arm strength and moved him to running back. During the next four years, Kelly played on both sides of the ball for Morgan State. He was the co-captain of the team during his senior year and was also the MVP of the Orange Blossom Classic game held in Miami. Because of their close proximity to Morgan State, Baltimore Colts players would occasionally attend Bears practices. Watching Kelly during practice one day, George Taliaferro(who played halfback for the Colts) shared a tip with Kelly that stuck with him. Despite the fact that Kelly became a solid college running back, pro teams were leery of his size. The trend in the NFL at the time was to draft runners with larger body types. Team management believed larg...
With Kelly signed by the Browns, the next thing the coaching staff had to figure out was what to do with him. Jim Brown and Ernie Greenwere already firmly entrenched as the starting running backs. Even more daunting for Kelly, Brown never missed a day of work, ever. In his career, Brown started and played in every game. That meant Kelly had to find a different way to make the team. During training camp in 1964, Kelly flew all over the field and caught the coaches eye for his special teams dedication. Sure enough, that was how Kelly made his mark. He made the Browns as a special teams player and he took to the role as if his life depended on it. The coaching staff raved about Kelly’s willingness to take on blockers and make good tackles. Given his speed, Kelly was also adept as a punt return specialist. During his second season in 1965, Kelly won the league punt return title with 265 yards on 17 returns. He also had 621 yards on 24 kick returns. Kelly was finally able to see a little...
Kelly had become a Brown at just the right time. Despite only seeing limited playing time, he was a member of the Browns 1964 NFL Championship team. The following season, Cleveland returned to the Championship game only to lose to the Packers. After the 1965 title game there were rumors that Brown might not be returning to the team. He was off in Europe taking part in the filming of the movie “The Dirty Dozen” as training camp approached. Due to weather delays during filming, Brown’s return to Cleveland was in doubt. Owner Art Modell threatened Brown that if he did not return on time to training camp, he would fine the star daily. Brown briefly considered Modell’s threat and then decided to retire. The decision came to the shock and dismay of Cleveland’s management as well as Browns fans. (Modell admitted years later that he took the wrong approach to Brown’s training camp attendance). At the time, Brown was in the prime of his career and only 29 years old. His retirement left the t...
1967 began a spectacular two-year run of greatness for Kelly. That season he led the league in rushing yards with 1,205 and added 20 catches for 282 yards. He also led the league in rushing average (5.1) and touchdowns (13 total). The totals meant another Pro Bowl trip and First-team All-Pro recognition. In 1968, Cleveland crossed the finish line with a 10-4 record and met the Cowboys again in the Conference Championship game. This time, the Browns upended Dallas and came away with a 31-20 victory. During the game, Kelly accounted for two scores, a 45-yard pass from quarterback Bill Nelsenand a 35-yard run. The following week, the Colts crushed the Browns 34-0 in the NFL Championship game. That year, Kelly passed the century mark for the third straight year, rushing for 1,239 yards which topped the NFL. He led the league in rushing touchdowns (16) and tacked on another four scores on receptions. Even more remarkable, Kelly scored a touchdown in 12 games and two or more touchdowns in...
In 1969, Kelly’s rushing numbers declined, but not by much. For the year, he racked up 817 yards on 196 carries for nine touchdowns. He also hauled in 20 receptions for 267 yards and one more score. His numbers were good enough for a fourth straight Pro Bowl nod. Meanwhile, the Browns finished the year 10-3-1 and faced Dallas for the third consecutive year in the Conference Championship game. For the second straight year, the Browns bested Dallas 38-14. Kelly was responsible for a one yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter. The following week, Cleveland fell to the Vikings 27-7 in the NFL Championship game. The team missed the playoffs in 1970 with a 7-7 record. That year marked only the second time in franchise history where the Browns failed to have a better than .500 record. However, despite their record, the Browns and Kelly made history that year when they played the Jets in the first official Monday Night Football gamein Week 1. 1970 was an off-year for Kelly as well. His 65...
In 1971, Kelly bounced back and so did the Browns. As the team went 9-5 and took first place in the AFC Central, Kelly returned to his old self. That season he ran for 865 yards and ten scores along with 25 catches for 252 yards and two more touchdowns. Cleveland faced the Colts in the Divisional Playoffs but were promptly eliminated 20-3. 1972 saw Kelly rush for over 800 yards again, ending the year with 811 yards and four touchdowns. He added 23 receptions for 204 yards and another score. The Browns went 10-4 in ‘72 and met a Miami team that had not lost a game that year. Unfortunately, the Dolphins kept rolling and upended Cleveland 20-14. When they won the Super Bowl a few weeks later, Miami became the first NFL team to finish a season undefeated. It was not lost on the Browns that they had also been undefeated once. In 1948, they had a perfect 14-0 season in the old All-American Football Conference.
The 1973 season was difficult for Kelly. Struggling with knee issues, he rushed for only 389 yards on 132 carries, which averaged about 2.9 yards per carry. Kelly was also limited to 15 receptions for 180 yards. The Browns missed the postseason that year with a 7-5 record. Kelly’s time with Cleveland ended at the same time the team went into a decline. The following summer, he was cut from the Browns
After being released by the only pro team he ever played for, Kelly was signed by the Raiders. He didn’t last long in Oakland and was shown the door again. That year, the World Football League started and Kelly looked for work with the organization. The Chicago Fire picked him up and Kelly rushed for 315 yards and caught eight passes for 128 yards (a 16 yards per catch average). Not long after the ‘74 season, the WFL folded and Kelly retired as a pro football player.
Life after football hasn’t been too bad for Kelly. As he was playing, Kelly invested in a night club and a few Burger King franchises. However, “They folded,” he said in a 2008 interview. Kelly and his wife, Bettie, had three children. Their oldest son, David, and daughter, Felicia, have both been involved in television as a reporter and engineer, respectively. Their other son, Leroy Kelly II, followed in his father’s footsteps and played football. Junior played three seasons in the American Indoor Football League and one season with the German Football League. In 1994, Kelly was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. It was hard to overlook his stats. Over the course of ten seasons, Kelly had 7,275 rushing yards and 74 touchdowns, was an NFL Champion in 1964, six-time Pro Bowler, four-time First-team All-Pro, Bert Bell Award winner, two-time league rushing yards leader, three-time league rushing touchdowns leader, and NFL 1960s All-Decade Team member. His Hall of Fame bio con...
Leroy Kelly. RB Info; Stats; Advertising. Summary; Career; Logs; Splits; Situational; Rushing YEAR TEAM G ATT YDS AVG LNG TD 1st 1st% 20+ 40+ FUM; 1964
Leroy Kelly sat on the bench behind Jim Brown during the 1964 and 1965 seasons and was used mostly as a return specialist. He became a starter in 1966 when ...
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Oct 13, 2020 · Club 46: Leroy Kelly carved a legendary career in lieu of his legendary predecessor Kelly has always been remembered for following in Jim Brown’s footsteps, but he has always been a self-made legend
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