Cal Lutheran linebacker Brian Kelley elected to the College Football Hall of Fame
May 11, 2010 | 12:05 pm
Los Angeles Times
Former California Lutheran linebacker Brian Kelley has been elected to the College Football Hall of Fame.
Kelley, who grew up in Fullerton and graduated from Sunny Hills High, is among four players and two coaches in this year's divisional class, which features players and coaches from the Football Championship Subdivision, Divisions II, III and the NAIA.
Kelley helped the Kingsmen win the 1971 NAIA Division II title and was a first-team NAIA All-American in 1972. He went on to play 10 years in the NFL, all with the New York Giants.
Also among the new Hall of Famers announced Tuesday by the National Football Foundation were Marshall wide receiver and return specialist Troy Brown, Maryland Eastern Shore halfback Emerson Boozer, UMass tight end Milt Morin and coaches Willie Jeffries (Howard, Wichita State and South Carolina State) and Ted Kessinger (Bethany, Kan.).
The class will be inducted the weekend of July 16 and 17 in South Bend, Ind.
CONTINUED BELOW COMMENTS
Many of you will also remember Brian's older brother Tex Kelley, '68, also a football standout at SHHS and also a wrestler. Tex played at Cal Lutheran, too.
To confuse matters slightly, the new Notre Dame coach is named Brian Kelly. There is also a popular young singer named .. yup .. Brian Kelley.
Ask for the real Brian Kelley of Sunny Hills, remembered wherever football is appreciated.
Bud Fuselier '67
[Note: Bud's 2 sons were also outstanding high school and college football players. His older boy played at Redlands University, and his younger son at Dartmouth.]
Where Are They Now? Brian Kelley
Former Giants linebacker played 11 seasons as Big Blue struggled.
By Michael Eisen, Giants.com
May 2, 2005
East Rutherford, N.J. - Brian Kelley is similar to many former Giants. Before joining the franchise in 1973, he had never set foot in New Jersey. Since he retired following the 1983 season, he has never left.
Brian Kelley spent his entire 11-year career with the Giants.
An outstanding linebacker, Kelly spent his entire 11-year career with the Giants. Born in Texas, Kelly was raised in California. He was a star at Sunny Hills High School in Fullerton and at California Lutheran, where he was a little All-America his senior year. For much of his career, Kelley returned home in the offseason. He figured once his time with the Giants ended, that's where he would reside permanently.
But an unexpected discovery by then-coach Ray Perkins led Kelley to establish roots in the Garden State.
"The story of how I ended up on the East Coast is sort of funny," Kelly said recently. "I was still living on the West Coast and commuting back and forth for the season. I was also playing rugby in the offseason while I was playing football. I played for the Santa Monica Rugby Club. We played for the national championship in Monterey, Calif. We won the national championship and I scored the winning try - a try is like a touchdown. It so happened that I was on the front page of the sports section in Monterey and San Francisco.
"The next day, I got a call from Ray Perkins. He said, `Boy, what are you doing playing rugby?' I said, `No one told me I couldn't play rugby.' And he said, 'Well, I'm telling you, you ain't playing rugby no more. You might as well pack your bags, because you're moving to the East Coast.' That was pretty much it, and I did move. Pat O'Hara was the team lawyer at that time and he pretty much had a house and a mortgage and everything for me. I was an East Coaster after that. I've been here since 1980. I love it here."
It wasn't as easy to enjoy when Kelley was playing. When he arrived as a 14th-round draft choice, the Giants were coming off an 8-6 season and were full of hope. But they slumped to 2-11-1 in 1973, beginning one of the bleakest eras in franchise history. The Giants had just one winning record in Kelley's 11 seasons, a 9-7 mark in 1981. The combined record of his Giants teams was 49-108-1.
But Kelley was thrilled to play in the NFL. When you enter the league as the 353rd pick in the draft and stay for 11 years, it's a huge accomplishment.
"I knew I was a longshot as a rookie," Kelley said. "When I came in there were only 40-man rosters. They kept only five linebackers. They had Jim Files, Ron Hornsby, John Douglas, Pat Hughes and a guy named Henry Reed. They were all good linebackers. And Brad Van Pelt was the number one pick for the Giants that year. It looked tough. I was fortunate because I played special teams really well. And then there were a couple of injuries. Van Pelt had a groin injury and was out most of the year. And in the last preseason game Pat Hughes sprained his ankle real bad. Basically, there was nobody to play except me at weakside linebacker. That was a shocker. We played in Cleveland and I was in the dugout when they announced my name as the starting right outside backer. I just went `Oh My God.' I was quite fortunate. It was unfortunate for some guys. Once I got the opportunity I was able to produce."
Kelley led the Giants in tackles each season from 1974-76. He missed virtually the entire 1980 season with a knee injury, but returned the following year and was credited with 186 tackles, including 106 solo. He intercepted 15 passes in his career.
"I'm happy with what I did," Kelley said. "I'm never satisfied. I would have loved to have been able to go to a Super Bowl and win a Super Bowl ring and stay on another two or three years with the Giants. But that didn't happen. But I thought I made the most out of my career coming from where I did and being a 14th-round draft choice."
After his rookie season, coach Alex Webster was fired and replaced by Bill Arnsparger, who eventually was fired in favor of John McVay, who gave way to Perkins, who bolted for Alabama, which gave Parcells his shot. Parcells' first year was Kelley's last, a 3-12-1 disaster in 1983.
"It was tough playing in those years," Kelley said. "But we still had some good defenses. We had Harry Carson and Brad Van Pelt, John Mendenhall and Jack Gregory. But when people ask me who the quarterback was when I was playing, I lost count. We had Jerry Golsteyn, Jim DelGazio - people don't even remember him - Scott Brunner, Craig Morton, Joe Pisarcik. We almost had a different quarterback every year.
"Plus the team moved around. My first year in `73 we played two games in Yankee Stadium and then went from there to Yale Bowl. And people forget in `75 we went to Shea Stadium. When I mention that to people they say, `You played in Shea Stadium? I forgot that.' We all tried to forget it - it wasn't a great season. Then in `76 we went into Giants Stadium."
The losing was particularly frustrating to Kelley, because he had played for winning programs in high school and college. He had 16 career interceptions at Cal Lutheran were a school record. In 1972, he was the most valuable player of the NAIA national championship game.
"I had great programs in college and high school," he said. "Coming in as a pro, you didn't know what the problem was. We went through five head coaches and we must have gone through 30 assistant coaches. It was like one of those swinging barroom doors. People were coming and going left and right. And I think it was `74, we had the strike that lasted, which set us back again. I think we had about 200 people in camp at one time. There was a lot I wasn't used to.
"It's one of those things. A lot of people play a lot of years and they never make it to the Super Bowl. Then you have guys that ride the bench for one or two years and they win two Super Bowl rings. It's called timing. My timing at the beginning wasn't good and at the end it got better when Ray Perkins and Bill Parcells were there."
When Kelley played, the strength of the team was his linebackers unit. Kelley and Brad Van Pelt arrived together in 1973. Harry Carson came aboard in 1976. Carson was selected to nine Pro Bowls, Van Pelt to five. The three linebackers played together and became close friends. In 1981, the Giants used the second pick in the draft to pick Lawrence Taylor, who stepped right into the lineup and began his Hall of Fame career.
From 1981-83, Taylor, Carson, Van Pelt and Kelley were the starting linebackers in a 3-4 defense. More than two decades later, they are still together.
"The four of us are still close," Kelly said. "We do a lot of autograph sessions together. And we talk. I talk to L.T. three, four times a month, I talk to Harry maybe twice a week and Brad and I talk all the time.
"When we do autograph sessions - a company will bring us in for an autograph session - at night when we're done we'll go back and rehash all the things that have happened and it's fun. Everybody has things that they remember. When they bring it up, a lot of times it's hilarious."
The former players also travel as a foursome. They play golf together. And as Carson liked to point out, they've all been divorced.
"The last two years the four of us went out to the Pro Bowl together and had a great time," Kelley said. "We've done other things - we've gone to the Bahamas and stuff like that. We've done quite a few things together."
It's not uncommon for former teammates to remain friends. But it is perhaps unusual for four men to leave the locker room and retain such a strong bond after so much time has passed since they last wore uniforms together.
"It is sort of like a brotherhood," Carson said. "We, as a group, were considered during our time, probably the best group of linebackers in the league. We played for one another and having a tremendous sense of pride in our unit as a group. We have done a lot of stuff on the field but also we did a lot of stuff off the field. In essence, we bonded tremendously and I would venture to say at one point we were probably the best linebacking corps in the NFL. That is something that doesn't fade overnight or through the years. You recognize that we were really a good group of players who played well together.
"Now, when we go somewhere together, I think what happens is we assume the roles that we had when we played. We are four guys who genuinely like one another. We played together. We went through a lot of good stuff together; we went through some bad stuff together. We bonded. But I think it is good that we can keep this relationship going."
"I think it all stems from playing football and the trust we developed on the field," Kelley said. "I never worried when I was going around the tight end that Brad Van Pelt wouldn't have the tight end taken care of. I never worried about L.T. doing his job. I always knew everybody was doing their job. It was a bonding scenario. You get so close with each other. People don't realize the time you spend together, not only off the field but on the field. You learn to work together in harmony. And we did. The four of us just worked great together. It was a situation where four guys thought alike and trusted the other guy. That trust also worked off the field. We still call each other and ask each other questions. I still work with L.T. with his money to a degree. We call each other to say, `Hey, I need you to come over here to do an engagement.' We're always there for each other and to help each other."
The foursome doesn't just sign autographs or tell old stories. Last fall, Kelley and his three friends showed their humanitarian side when they traveled to Vera Cruz, Mexico to help build houses as part of a Habitat for Humanity project.
Carson said their willingness to take part in such endeavors together stems from their shared accomplishments as players.
"I think it sort of goes back to football the way it used to be," Carson said. "Playing for one another and having a tremendous sense of pride in our unit as a group. I think it is well documented that before Lawrence got there we felt pretty good within ourselves that we were a good group of linebackers. Then when Lawrence got there, we all saw his talent and he just made us even better than what we thought we could be. We have done a lot of stuff on the field but also we did a lot of stuff off the field. In essence, we bonded tremendously and I would venture to say at one point we were probably the best linebacking corps in the NFL. That is something that doesn't fade overnight or through the years. You recognize that we were really a good group of players who played well together."
Kelley is still successful today as a financial advisor for Wachovia Securities. Prior to that, he was an agent who negotiated contracts for several NFL players. Because of the huge money paid to players and the complexity of today's contracts, he teamed with a partner, Peter Borowsky, to help players with their finances. They represent about 30 current players.
"It's pretty satisfying to see some of these ballplayers listen to you and understand what they have to do," Kelly said. "We have six or seven players that are pretty much set for the rest of their lives. They listen to us. It's good to see that. These players know they're not going to make this money all the time. There are a lot of them that still don't realize that, and they won't listen to you. The ones that do, it's good to see them doing it and understanding the process involved in their finances. It's really satisfying to me to see guys like that and be able to help them."
Kelley is married to Holly and has three daughters - Erin (28), Meghan (25) and Shannon (19), plus a granddaughter (Taylin) and a grandson (Cody).
"I'm very fortunate," he said. "Everybody's healthy and everybody's doing great. I'm not a greedy person. I live comfortably and I have a great family and I think that's important."
And since Ray Perkins turned him into a New Jersey resident for life, Kelley has remained true blue to the only NFL team he ever played for.
"I live and die with the Giants," Kelley said. "I love the Giants. Part of that is Mr. (Wellington) Mara's image and his personification. The kind of person he is has rubbed off on me the way he is, the great person he is."
Kelley is a regular at Giants home games.
"I still like going to the games and meeting the people," Kelley said. "I go to the suites and meet the people. I still watch games on television. Sunday mornings I play golf early so I can get home in time for the 1 o'clock kickoff."
Since Perkins ended his rugby career it's been the best way to fill a Sunday afternoon.