When Ryan Kelly was checking out Alabama as a possible college choice, his father drove him a half dozen times from the northside of Cincinnati to Tuscaloosa.
So Kelly doesn’t mind a meaningful road trip. Chicago, site of this weekend’s NFL draft, isn’t too far away compared to his travels with dad.
But Kelly wasn’t among the 25 players invited to attend Thursday’s first round and sit in the green room. And that suited him just fine. With all due respect, Kelly wouldn’t have accepted the invitation anyway.
The Indianapolis Colts’ newest Hoosier millionaire, selected with the 18th overall pick, wanted to watch the drama play out at home, with family and friends, those most responsible for making this special day possible.
Say this about Kelly, who met with Indianapolis media for the first time Friday, the center is undoubtedly centered when it comes to what’s important. The Kelly party numbers were kept to a reasonable number, then more people were encouraged to stop by after the Alabama All-American had been drafted.
“They do a nice job of putting a lot of things together for those players,” Kelly said of the NFL draft, “it’s just I wanted to be around people that have helped me get to where I am now. Obviously going into Chicago, you can’t really bring 20-30 people with you so it made it a little bit more home for me to have those people with me and to kind of share that experience with them so I wouldn’t change it any other way.”
“We had food come in, it was kind of – I wanted to keep it small at first, just friends and family, kind of tight knit because I didn’t want a huge crowd kind of stressing me out a little bit. Then I said once my name is called the door is open, you can come in whenever you want and just kind of swing by and say hello. As soon as my name was called it was pretty much glued to the phone for the next two hours. As time goes on you look up and it’s already midnight. It was a fun night. It’s only going to happen once so I tried to take advantage of it the best I can.”
Kelly’s first impression couldn’t have been more obvious. He’s kind of no-nonsense. He’ll crack the occasional joke, but it will be dry.
How did he get to Tuscaloosa?
“I just got in my car and drove,” he said.
Has the Southeastern Conference Scholar Athlete of the Year graduated?
“I graduated in August of 2014 with my undergraduate in business management and then I graduated in December with marketing and my master’s (degree),” Kelly said.
So, a reporter teased, he’s an underachiever.
“When you’re there for five years,” he said, “you can get it done.”
Did he grow up a Bengals fan?
“Not really, just kind of watched football,” he said. “The Colts are my favorite team now.”
After his press conference, Kelly struck a familiar pose, holding up his new No. 78 Colts jersey. Someone teased that he could smile for the cameras.
Not his style, thank you very much.
“It’s a smirk, man, I’m telling you,” he said with a modest grin.
Phillip B. Wilson also can be found on Facebook and Google+.