JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Jan. 28, 2014) – Maurice “Mo” Kelly is living the NFL dream.
Kelly, a defensive back letter winner for ETSU from 1990 to 1993, is preparing to make his second trip to the Super Bowl as a member of the Seattle Seahawks front office. The franchise’s senior director for player development, Kelly has spent a decade with the Seahawks after finishing up a long professional playing career back in 2003.
“It’s been crazy around here, but it’s an exciting time in Seattle,” said Kelly, who earned his degree in criminal justice from ETSU in the spring of 1994. “To have an opportunity to make it back to the Super Bowl is great, but it is a lot of work. I don’t think a lot of people realize everything that goes into it – all the little details. It’s kept us busy.”
A four-year letter winner at ETSU, Kelly was an All Southern Conference performer in each of those seasons, collecting 10 career interceptions during his time with the Buccaneers. He also led the team with 135 tackles as a sophomore, while collecting the second-most stops on the team with 97 tackles during his senior season.
He went on to enjoy a professional playing career, spending several seasons in the Canadian Football League before signing with the Seahawks in 2000 and playing in the NFL for two seasons. It was following his time as a player that Kelly found a career in the team’s front office.
“I can’t believe it’s been 10 years,” said Kelly, who earned his degree in criminal justice from ETSU in the spring of 1994. “I knew when I got the call to interview for this job that it was the opportunity of a lifetime. It wasn’t about the money or anything else. It was about getting a chance to break into the league again as part of management, because I had seen so many guys who finished their playing days and couldn’t get back into the league. Those players didn’t know what they were going to do with the rest of their lives, and that’s a tough reality.
“So it’s a blessing to be in this position today and I’m living a dream. I look at my job and truly believe that it’s the best job in the world.”
Kelly described his role with the Seahawks as “acting as a liaison between our players and coaches,” saying that he is in many ways working in a role of that’s equal parts mentor, financial advisor, relationship counselor and friend. He said he’s often a major communication facilitator for players and coaches, as well as the team’s front office – including the general manager.
Interestingly enough, beyond his days in the classroom at ETSU, Kelly said it was his time as a teammate and roommate in the dorms of the university that prepared him for his job today.
“I tell people all the time that I’ve been preparing for and doing this job all my life,” Kelly said. “Even when I was at ETSU, I was a team captain and guys on the team just seemed to be hanging out in my room all the time. Guys would be asking questions about the dos and don’ts, about Johnson City and ETSU, and just asking for advice. I would see the good, the bad and the ugly, and that’s exactly what I’m doing today. I get a chance to see guys grow up from being rookies to becoming team captains and leaders.”
One of those players is All Pro defensive back Richard Sherman, who made national headlines following his postgame interview after the Seahawks win over the San Francisco 49ers in the AFC Championship. Kelly just laughed when asked about the team’s raucous star.
“People get the wrong idea about Richard Sherman,” Kelly said. “He is a very, very intelligent man, and from the day he walked into our office he said what he was going to do it, and he’s done it. We’ve never had any issues from him off the field. Heck, he’s a graduate of Stanford. He knows what he’s doing, but it’s been funny this week to sit in our office and just laugh at all the stories about him. Truthfully, he’s as good as they come.”
As ETSU begins the process of launching a new football program, Kelly said he is excited to see the team kickoff again.
“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. I’ve seen so many guys come through that program that are successful. The city and university means so much to us. To have it back gives pride to all of us that wore that Buccaneer helmet.”
Where Are They Now
Name: Maurice Kelly
ETSU Letters: 1990-93
Where they live: Seattle, Wash.
Careers: Currently employed by the Seattle Seahawks of the National Football League as Senior Director for Player Development