Chicago Heights Native Dennis Kelly Achieves NFL Dream
From St. Kieran School to the Philadelphia Eagles, Kelly has grown physically and mentally into a force to be reckoned with.
This year he's doing the same, but replace "senior" with "rookie" and "Purdue University" with "Philadelphia Eagles."
That's right. Last weekend Kelly was a fifth round pick in the NFL Draft, and he soon could be blocking for the likes of Michael Vick.
Kelly, like plenty of other Heights residents, was once a student at St. Kieran School. He has made return visits there in the years since he graduated, towering over the current students. After St. Kieran, the offensive tackle was a relatively skinny high schooler at Marian Catholic.
"Believe it or not, I was skinny in high school," Kelly said. "I was only 240 pounds. For the offensive line, they didn’t know if I was going to be big enough."
Kelly's childhood neighbor, Michelle Gliottoni-Rodriguez, says she remembers Kelly when he was "this big," motioning her arm toward the ground.
That was a long time ago.
At 6-8 and 321 pounds, Rodriguez probably couldn't reach the top of Kelly's head these days. Still, he has not forgotten from where he came. As of last year, Kelly was still reflecting on his younger days in the Heights and his once-budding love for football.
“I remember when I was talking to a parent after a sixth-grade game," Kelly said. "They told me I played with a lot of passion. They could see something in me. When I went to Marian Catholic, my football really started taking off. I started to grow and get better at the sport. I thought, 'This is an opportunity I can use.' ”
Entering the League
As exciting as it was to find out Kelly was headed to the NFL, the senior-turned-rookie said he had been told by his agent he might be drafted sometime between the third and fifth round.
"I had somewhat of an inclination," he said. "They brought me in for a physical and a visit with the coaches. I met with everyone and felt there was a good chemistry there."
Asked how he would fit in to Eagles offensive line coach Howard Mudd's plans, Kelly was optimistic.
"I think I fit very well," he said. "I think one of the strengths of my game is my athleticism. I move very well for how big I am, and I have grown into my body ... and I move very fluidly."
Realizing a Dream
Going forward, Dennis Kelly's return visits to St. Kieran will bring about a whole new level of excitement. The school doesn't get visits from NFL players often.
But Kelly won't likely be delivering an unrealistic message to students of his alma mater. Kelly went into his senior year proud to be working toward a degree. He wanted to make sure he had a plan in place no matter what happened.
Of course, his eyes were always on the prize.
“My ultimate goal is the NFL," Kelly said last year. "Being the best, you make it to the NFL. You start over again. You start as a rookie, (work toward gaining a starting) spot (and) getting to the all-stars and all-pro (levels). I think it would be cool to say I played in the NFL, even if it’s for a few years."
He is going to have that opportunity.
Mission accomplished, Dennis.