Maurice Kelly (left, provided by NFL)
East Tennessee State University football, set to kick its reawakening into high gear in the next few months, received another shot in the arm with the result of Super Bowl XLVIII.
Former Buccaneer defensive back Maurice “Mo” Kelly will receive his Super Bowl ring not for his famous defensive prowess, but for his player development work with the Seattle Seahawks, which trounced the Peyton Manning-led Denver Broncos 43-8 on Sunday night in New Jersey.
Kelly’s friend and former coach at ETSU, Lee Morrow, said he’d been texting with Kelly and telling him how proud of him Morrow was.
“I’m no more proud of him than I was a few weeks ago,” Morrow said of the former athlete, who Morrow said was always the good guy he always knew. “Mo is unchanged. He’s not Joe Cool. He’s Mo Kelly.”
Morrow said he couldn’t lose this time around, as a fan of the Broncos’ Peyton Manning and being so close to Kelly. He said he’d be happy with either team winning, but admits he was pulling for Kelly to win, and said he was beaming with the result.
Kelly, or “Mo K” as he was known to Morrow and his cohorts, played at ETSU from 1990-93, where he was a four-year letter winner and also earned a degree in criminal justice. After his graduation, Kelly played several seasons in the Canadian Football League, where Morrow said Kelly stood out as a defensive specialist, earning top league awards.
From 2000-03, Kelly played for the Seahawks, which would ultimately open up the door for his current position of Senior Director for Player Development.
What’s remarkable about Kelly’s tenure in the Seahawks’ front office, Morrow said, has been his ability to withstand staff changes. Three coaches have come and gone in the years Kelly has been in his position, and, as is often the case, with new coaches frequently come new staff. Morrow said what Kelly has been doing must be well appreciated in Seattle, because he has not been uprooted, even with the hiring of head coach Pete Carroll in 2010.
“So it’s a blessing to be in this position today and I’m living a dream,” Kelly told ETSU athletics in a recent interview. “I look at my job and truly believe that it’s the best job in the world.”
Kelly’s strength as a player, his defense, was also the strength of the Seahawks in their championship-winning run. Morrow said Kelly would be too humble to share that connection.
As well as being a celebration of the successes of former ETSU athletes, Kelly’s involvement in the Seahawks’ Super Bowl victory could also bode well for the Buccaneer football program, which has aspirations of building a strong new team and football stadium.
The Bucs’ first game after a 12-year hiatus will be against Kennesaw State at Kermit Tipton Stadium on Sept. 3, 2015.
Kelly’s accomplishment might very well serve as a recruiting tool for the Bucs, who will look to revamp the new team with fresh talent. Morrow said Kelly had already spoken about being a part of any kind of push to get his alma mater back on the map for football, and with the success of Mike Smith coaching the Atlanta Falcons after a Hall of Fame collegiate career at ETSU, the job of landing those recruits should be easier.
“First and foremost, I can get into college football conversations with other people now,” Kelly said. “In the past, guys would talk to me about their college teams and I couldn’t be part of the conversation since we didn’t have a team. But now we have a team again, and something to be proud of.”