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In his words: Ball State defensive leader talks on slowing Randy Moss

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Kelly faced NFL All-Pros on everyday basis

Saturday, March 29, 2014 - 4:00 am

MUNCIE - New Ball State defensive coordinator Kevin Kelly spent two different stints earlier in his career as an assistant football coach at Marshall University. During his first time with the Thundering Herd (1996 to 1998), he worked with a couple of future NFL greats Chad Pennington and Randy Moss.

He spoke with The News-Sentinel earlier this winter about what that experience was like:

On facing Moss and Pennington on a daily basis:

"I wouldn't define it as defending Randy Moss, we tried to defend him. Nobody in the NFL could do it either. When I was a coordinator, I had to defend Chad Pennington as a quarterback throwing to Randy Moss. (And later) Byron Leftwich, whom I personally recruited out of (Washington, D.C.), he was another NFL quarterback.

"I always felt that if I could fool the quarterbacks in practice, Chad Pennington being one of the smarter quarterbacks to ever play NFL football, he was actually a Rhodes Scholar candidate, that's how sharp he was.

"That's how he made it to the NFL, he made himself a pro quarterback. My biggest challenge was always spring ball and preseason scrimmages against the Marshall offense."

On seeing Moss for the first time:

"My jaw dropped. He came in with the incoming class after transferring from Florida State. We ran the (40-yard dash) and I was one of the timers. When he ran the 40, and Randy is very tall, so it doesn't look like he's going very fast, I looked at my watch and it was a 4.29. The guy across from me was doing the same thing, he had the same time himself. It was legit.

"Randy's athleticism was just off the charts. And then the size was a huge factor in that also. He'd just run right by defenders."

On working with Moss:

"He's a very smart player. He's been on (one of the TV networks). He's a sharp young man. He's a very smart football player. That's why people at Marshall, in the MAC, and in the NFL had trouble defending him - or trying to defend him. That's probably a better term."

On Moss slipping in the NFL Draft:

"I remember when he had his pro day, there were several NFL head coaches there. It was a show. He just put on a great performance. I was shocked (he lasted until 21st pick). I think it was probably some background issues that they were concerned about. But a lot of people made a mistake."