Exclusive Interview With Broncos WR Jeremy Kelley

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If you could script the toughest road to the National Football League, you might just hand over a blank notebook to Denver Broncos wide receiver Jeremy Kelley and have him write his story.

From the University of Maine, Kelley has played for or been picked up by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the Canadian Football League, the Utah Blaze of the Arena League, Jacksonville Sharks, the Indianapolis Colts, the Pittsburgh Power, the San Jose Sabercats, and the Omaha Mammoths of the FXFL.

Kelley’s opportunity with the FXFL provided him a pathway back to the NFL after an offseason with the Indianapolis Colts a couple of years ago that has culminated in his being signed to a reserve/future deal with the Denver Broncos, and he now hopes to make his mark as a member of Broncos Country.

Kelley has played in virtually every professional football league out there, but the dream of playing in the NFL and on one of the league’s best teams at that is still very much alive, and he has a chance this offseason to prove he belongs.

The 6-6, 235 pound wide receiver/tight end hybrid has phenomenal athletic ability and work ethic, and is excited to bring his versatility and mismatch capabilities to the Broncos’ offense. Kelley was kind enough to chat with Predominantly Orange for a little while on the Monday after the Super Bowl, and we talked about his future with the team, his path to the NFL, and how he can make his way onto the 53-man roster when all is said and done.

Bouncing around and playing in so many different leagues, I was interested to know how the opportunity with the Broncos came about.

“It was out of the blue. I was actually fortunate enough and blessed enough to play in the NFL development league this year in the FXFL. It had been a long fall in the sense of watching a lot of football and being out of it. I played a little bit in the Arena League that summer, was able to collect a few checks, but once I got called to go play in the FXFL I was able to generate some recent film in outdoor games that I haven’t had. That was huge for me in my situation.

I really took the road less traveled. I needed that film and I got it through the FXFL and it apparently got into the right hands with Denver, however they got it, and they gave me a call. I was at work one day and all of a sudden the phone rang — I actually work at a fitness store for Robert Gronkowski’s father — but I got a call from the Broncos and they asked if I was in shape. I always laugh at that question because if I wasn’t I’m not going to tell them that. But I was absolutely in shape and I went out there and I impressed, and I turned some heads as I expected to do.

So the next thing I knew, I was actually hoping for a practice roster opportunity and they had said that was a strong possibility — they had called me before I even reached the airport — but they decided it at that point in the season was better to do a futures deal at that point and I was just happy, man. I was glad to be back and have my foot in the door with the opportunity to do something with a great team, a great organization.”

The opportunity to play for the Broncos is truly a golden opportunity for Kelley, a receiver that embraces the “Colts grow up to become Broncos” saying that he laughed and joked about with some former teammates of his already on the Broncos’ roster in Brandon McManus, Nathan Palmer, and Dominique Jones, but Kelley says it was more than just the thought or hope of an opportunity that kept him focused all this time.

“My perseverance and my faith. I stay close to the both of those. I believe in them heavily, and I know without God I would have given up a long time ago. Just because, this business is very demanding. Physically, to be able to stay in shape for so long without a contract or something to look forward to — and there was a lot of times where that was the case — you’re not getting the opportunities you want and also when you get released or cut, you need that perseverance, those internal qualities, those intangibles that are going to keep you going.. You have to always keep your eyes on the bigger picture and I’ve always done so and it’s always yielded great opportunity.”

So now that he has the opportunity, what does Kelley bring to the table? He’s big, fast, can jump out of the gym, has a basketball background, and essentially is the prototype NFL athlete that simply needs to correctly place the last piece or two of the puzzle.

“I’m going to bring a dynamic of a very high caliber athlete. Not to toot my own horn but I strongly believe in myself and I think I have a lot of intangibles that others don’t. As far as my condition and my size what I bring to that position at 6-6 235 pounds — and I plan on being a little heavier when I get there — that basketball style athlete like the Julius Thomas’s. It creates mismatch problems.

I’m bigger and stronger than DB’s but faster and quicker than linebackers but also strong enough to get inside and bang around in there as well and I take pride in that. That’s something that I bring to the table and I think Denver is looking for that.

As you saw last night (in the Super Bowl), the Chris Matthews (Seahawks WR) story. I couldn’t help but put myself in those shoes as I watched him perform out there. We took similar paths from the AFL and so forth. To see a guy that is under the radar come out and explode like that, I always tell people — for every superstar in the NFL there’s another guy behind him who can do everything he does if not better.

It’s just a matter of being prepared for that opportunity when it hits you in the face and he did that. I couldn’t help but think about next season and I think the Broncos are going to find out that they got a steal.”

John Elway is certainly no stranger to doing just that. Since coming aboard and making personnel decisions in 2011, Elway has brought in a variety of players that would be considered a ‘steal’ in starters Chris Harris Jr., Brandon Marshall, C.J. Anderson, Julius Thomas, Danny Trevathan, Malik Jackson — the list goes on. Kelley could certainly be the next player on that list, especially if he has the opportunity to play with a guy like Peyton Manning, who seems to elevate the play of everyone around him.

But what about Manning? Will he be coming back? Kelley weighs in:

“If you ask me all I can say about it is I want him to come back! I want to be able to sit in the same room with somebody like that of that caliber. To sit in the room with a future Hall of Famer and learn, and I was fortunate to do that with Reggie Wayne in Indianapolis and I’d like to do the same with Peyton. When you work with a quarterback like that he puts a lot of demands on you as a receiver which makes you better but you also learn.

You get educated on another level where you go to another spot you know how things are supposed to be done, how routes are supposed to be run, to understand the timing to another level because he seems to me the type of guy that you don’t want to come back to the huddle and disappoint, so I just hope he comes back.

Just to be honest from watching him on TV over the years, I don’t see him going out like that. I think he’s too much of a competitor.”

For Kelley, this is a situation where opportunity meets ability. The timing seems right. He has paid his dues, he has earned his stripes. He has played in every professional league possible since 2011, and has worked his tail off to remain in shape for an NFL opportunity. He didn’t give up after being cut by the Colts and now has an opportunity to make the Denver Broncos’ roster. So what’s going to be different this time around, if anything?

“I think my mentality is going to be different. I don’t think much has changed really but my mentality is different because I truly believe that I belong at that level. I’ve known it for a long time but when you’re there you can go through times when you can as a rookie and free agent when you’re not getting reps and you make a mistake here or there you start to question things and get inside your own head.

But I know I’m more than capable and the situation in Indy it just wasn’t the right fit for my skill set, how I was being used. Sometimes it just takes opportunity and timing to be in the right spot with the right offensive coordinator at the right time.

There wasn’t a free agent that was kept on that roster that year. But to another token, being a competitor, that means I didn’t do enough to make myself necessary, so I’m going to be coming into Denver knowing that I bring something different to the table to make myself necessary.”

Part of doing what it takes to make himself ‘necessary’ is going to be playing multiple positions if he has to. I tried to put two and two together since he had mentioned he was adding some weight to his 6-6 frame, and decided to pop the question of whether or not the Broncos asked him to play tight end, considering there aren’t any on the roster for 2015.

“Well, you’ve done your research because that’s something we’ve actually already spoken about and that’s something that they explored when I worked out for them. Like I said, the fact that there isn’t a tight end on the roster is something they took into consideration, and I think that’s what they’re looking for is another basketball-type athlete that can run routes, catch the ball, stretch the field vertically when Julius comes out.

With no tight ends on the roster I think that that’s where I’m going to find myself and I’m going back up to 240-245 and I have been at that weight before when I went to the CFL, but I’m going to get back up there and I’m going to be running fast, I’m going to be real strong, and if I have to go there and put my hand in the dirt and bang around with DeMarcus Ware and those boys I’m not scared — I actually played d-end my senior year in college and I know the NFL it’s a bit different but, I like to mix it up, I’m not your usual receiver I like to go in there and block a little bit and do those things.

If that’s where they have me and that’s my best shot at making the team in the flex TE/receiver I’m going to do anything because it increases my value.”

All of these things are great, but to get to the really important stuff, I had to ask Kelley what jersey number he was going to wear in orange and blue.

“I wish I knew! You can give me anything, man. Whatever it is just expect it to be flying around the field come OTAs and training camp. I’m going to be the guy that’s jumping real high, making catches all over the field. That’s what I expect to do whatever number it is so, we’re going to get it done.”