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Mark Martin's Notepad

Bob Kelly was one of the state’s best
September 10, 2013

Mark Martin I have scanned the Kennedy Award list many times through the years while examining those to be honored as West Virginia’s top high school football player.

I’ve met and done stories on several of those recipients who are part of an elite group to be recognized as the best the state has had to offer.

In August, the pleasure came my way to talk with the Kennedy Award winner from 1960. Bob Kelly, a product of Weir High School, was in Wheeling for the 10th Annual Ohio Valley Athletic Conference Hall of Fame Banquet.
Kelly was an inductee into the OVAC Hall in 2007.

“For the individuals who played with me at Weir High, of course family, and the coaches, it was an excellent honor,” Kelly said inside the Wesbanco Arena where the banquet is staged each August. “I really did appreciate (being selected) and I come back every year.”

Returning to his beloved Northern Panhandle of West Virginia and Ohio Valley is no easy task considering Kelly lives in the state of Washington near Seattle.

Kelly was part of this year’s OVAC event. He represented Joel Jones, who was inducted in the Legends category of the OVAC Hall.

Jones was a star player at old Weirton Dunbar High School. He was the first graduate of a segregated high school to be honored by the OVAC.

After his stellar high school career, Jones walked on at Michigan State and played in two Rose Bowl games for the Spartans. Jones lettered two seasons while playing defensive end, guard and tackle. Jones still lives in Michigan and was a long-time educator and counselor in Detroit.

“It’s an honor to be here for him,” Kelly said. “I watched him play and looked up to him.”

Jones graduated from Dunbar 1954.

A few years later, youngsters in the area were looking up to Kelly much like he had Jones.

As a senior in the fall of 1960, Kelly led Weir to the Class AAA state championship with a 40-0 win over Nitro at Parkersburg’s Stadium Field.
“I was fortunate that day to score four touchdowns. I had one called back and I threw another one,” Kelly said proudly.

He played during his high school career for the legendary Jimmy Carey. In addition, he was coached by Carl Fodor, Hugh Manley and Jim Wares.
In his senior year, Kelly rushed for 1,259 yards and scored 22 touchdowns.
When he won the Kennedy, it marked the first time an athlete from the Ohio Valley had received the coveted award.

“”When my mother told me I had won the Kennedy Award I hadn’t heard about it,” Kelly admitted. “And when I got the trophy it weighed approximately 50 pounds. I teased her that, ‘This is one trophy you will never be able to lift up.’”

Kelly was happy to represent Weir and the area as a Kennedy winner. In 1998, another Weir High grad – Quincy Wilson – won the honor. “Quincy just happens to be my cousin, so that’s a lot of bloodlines right there,” Kelly said smiling.

While Kelly won his award all to himself, Wilson shared the honor with J.R. House, who ironically played at Nitro.

Besides the Kennedy, he was Class AAA First Team All-State while also garnering Wigman and Scholastic Magazine All-American honors. Kelly played in the OVAC All-Star game that summer was the game’s Most Valuable Player.

For his career, Kelly’s teams went 26-5. He rushed for 2,370 yards and found the end zone 42 times.

Not only was he a star on the football field, but on the track. He was voted the MVP of the annual OVAC meet. He was second at the 1961 State Meet in the 100-meter dash.

When he left Weir, Kelly went on to Cameron Junior College in Lawton, Oklahoma. He led the Aggies to the Junior College national title. He was named a JUCO All-American as a first team halfback.

Kelly spent time in both the football programs at Oklahoma State and Colorado but injuries derailed his career.

Not only is he a member of the OVAC Hall of Fame, but is a member of the Cameron University Hall of Fame and the West Virginia and All Black Schools Sports and Academic Hall of Fame.

A man who last played football in the ‘60s, Bob Kelly is still as fit as a fiddle and looks much younger than his age of 71.

He takes great pride in his wonderful health and to be remembered as one of West Virginia’s all-time greatest high school football players.


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