Kelly, White join Hall

January 30, 1994|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,Staff Writer

ATLANTA -- On any other team, Leroy Kelly would have been revered for his unique talents. With the Cleveland Browns, he was always second to the great Jim Brown.

Kelly finally stepped out from behind Brown's long shadow yesterday, when he was selected with six other players to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

The Morgan State alumnus will be joined by former Maryland standout Randy White and running back Tony Dorsett of the Dallas Cowboys, defensive back Jimmy Johnson of the San Francisco 49ers, tight end Jackie Smith of the St. Louis Cardinals and coach Bud Grant of the Minnesota Vikings in induction ceremonies July 30 in Canton, Ohio.

Kelly, 51, was the only player selected by the seniors committee after failing to make the Hall of Fame as a modern era nominee. His coronation comes 21 years after a career that featured six Pro Bowls and two rushing titles.

Why did he feel he had to wait so long?

"Because I played behind the greatest running back in history," Kelly said from his home in Willingboro, N.J.

"I felt I was qualified to get in my first time up. [But] I'm a very patient man. I thought it'd eventually happen."

White was a consensus All-America defensive end at Maryland in 1974 and won the Outland Trophy and the Vince Lombardi Award as college football's top lineman.

He was the second player taken in the 1975 draft, behind Cal quarterback Steve Bartkowski (Atlanta Falcons). Tried as a middle linebacker, he didn't become a star until the Cowboys moved him to tackle his third season.

In a 14-year career that ended in 1988, White went to nine straight Pro Bowls, was an All-Pro pick eight straight years and missed only one game.

White was in Atlanta yesterday on business but was unavailable for comment.

Kelly's career was storybook stuff. An eighth-round draft pick out of Morgan State in 1964, he made the Browns as a kick returner and backup running back behind Brown.

When Brown retired suddenly after the 1965 season, Kelly made the most of his opportunity. He rushed for 1,000 yards and went to the Pro Bowl each of the next three seasons. And he led the NFL in rushing in 1967 and 1968.

"It was great playing with Jim Brown," Kelly said. "I'm thankful to him for retiring and giving me the opportunity to play."

In 10 pro seasons, Kelly accumulated 12,329 yards on rushes, receptions and kick returns. A durable player, he missed only four games during that time.

"I was like Emmitt Smith [of the Dallas Cowboys] and Thurman Thomas [of the Buffalo Bills]," he said. "You don't get a good shot at those type running backs. We don't try to run over anybody. My playing weight was 205, and I had a good stiff-arm."

Kelly's favorite play was an inside trap, a play that required precise timing. "The hole wasn't that big, and you had to be there when the guard was there on the trap," he said.

A native of Philadelphia, Kelly wasn't even the featured back at XTC Morgan State. That distinction went to the speedier Oliver Dobbins. Kelly thought his forte was defense. Yet, when he went to the Browns, he was used on offense. And when Dobbins went to the Bills in 1964, he was used as a defensive back.

"I was an all-around back in college," Kelly said.

And a Hall of Famer in the pros.


In addition to Morgan State alumnus Leroy Kelly and Maryland alumnus Randy White, four others were elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame: A look at the other selections:

* Tony Dorsett, running back, Dallas Cowboys. In 12 NFL seasons, Dorsett rushed for 12,739 yards, third best in NFL history behind Walter Payton (16,726) and Eric Dickerson (13,168). An excellent pass receiver, he is second to Payton in combined net yards with a total of 16,326. Dorsett played his final season with the Denver Broncos after 11 with the Cowboys. He gained 1,000 yards in eight of his first nine NFL seasons after winning the Heisman Trophy at Pittsburgh in 1976.

* Jimmy Johnson, defensive back, San Francisco 49ers. Johnson played 16 seasons and 212 games for the 49ers, although it wasn't until his third season he played strictly defense. The brother of world decathlon champion Rafer Johnson, Jimmy was used as a receiver his second season. Johnson had 47 interceptions and 615 return yards -- despite the fact that quarterbacks rarely threw into his area -- in a career that ran from 1961 to 1976. He was named All-Pro four straight years and selected to five Pro Bowls.

* Jackie Smith, tight end, St. Louis Cardinals. Smith had 480 catches for 7,918 yards and 40 touchdowns in a 16-year career that concluded with a one-season stint in Dallas. He played in five straight Pro Bowls from 1967 through 1971. Sadly, for all of his accomplishments, he may best be remembered for his dropped pass from Roger Staubach in a 1979 Super Bowl defeat for the Cowboys.

* Bud Grant, coach, Minnesota Vikings. Grant coached the Vikings 18 years, from 1967 to 1983 and again in 1985, going 168-108-5. He took the team to four Super Bowls -- all of which the Vikings lost. He won the NFL championship in 1969, and NFC titles in 1973, 1974 and 1976. A nine-letter athlete at the University of Minnesota, Grant played two years in the NBA, two in the NFL and four in the CFL, where he also coached. He had a 10-year CFL coaching record of 102-56-2 and won four Grey Cup championships.

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