June 11, 2012

MVP Profile: Leroy Kelly, 1968


Halfback, Cleveland Browns



Age: 26
5th season in pro football & with Browns
College: Morgan State
Height: 6’0”    Weight: 200

Prelude:
An unheralded player out of a small college, Kelly was taken by the Browns in the eighth round of the 1964 NFL draft (and was completely ignored by the AFL). He saw scant action on offense in his first two seasons, with star FB Jim Brown and HB Ernie Green starting in the backfield. As a kick returner, he led the NFL in punt returning in 1965 (15.6 avg.). The sudden retirement of Brown just prior to the opening of training camp in ’66 opened up a spot for Kelly in the backfield as he became the starting halfback and Green was shifted to fullback. The virtually-unknown Kelly rose to the occasion, nearly leading the league in rushing with 1141 yards while having the best yards-per-carry average (5.5), catching 32 passes for 366 more yards, and scoring a total of 16 TDs. He was a consensus first-team All-Pro and gained selection to the Pro Bowl. Kelly followed up by winning the league rushing title in 1967 (1205 yards), again with the highest average gain-per-carry (5.1). His 1487 yards from scrimmage also led the NFL and he was again a first-team All-Pro and Pro Bowl choice.

1968 Season Summary
Appeared in all 14 games
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]

Rushing
Attempts – 248 [1]
Most attempts, game - 30 (for 130 yds.) at Baltimore 10/20
Yards – 1239 [1]
Most yards, game – 174 yards (on 27 carries) at San Francisco 11/3
Average gain – 5.0 [2]
TDs – 16 [1]
100-yard rushing games - 7

Pass Receiving
Receptions – 22       
Most receptions, game – 3 (for 29 yds.) vs. Atlanta 10/27, (for 104 yds.) vs. New Orleans 11/10, (for 35 yds.) vs. NY Giants 12/1
Yards – 297
Most yards, game - 104 (on 3 catches) vs. New Orleans 11/10
Average gain – 13.5
TDs – 4
100-yard receiving games – 1

Passing
Pass attempts – 4
Pass completions – 1
Passing yards – 34
TD passes – 1
Interceptions – 0

Kickoff Returns
Returns – 1   
Yards – 10
TDs – 0

Punt Returns
Returns – 1   
Yards – 9
TDs – 0

All-Purpose yards – 1555 [2]

Scoring
TDs – 20 [1]
Points – 120 [1]

Postseason: 2 G
Rushing attempts – 33
Most rushing attempts, game - 20 vs. Dallas, Eastern Conf. Championship
Rushing yards – 115
Most rushing yards, game - 87 vs. Dallas, Eastern Conf. Championship
Average gain rushing – 3.5
Rushing TDs – 1

Pass receptions – 5
Most pass receptions, game - 3 vs. Baltimore, NFL Championship
Pass receiving yards - 73
Most pass receiving yards, game - 46 vs. Dallas, Eastern Conf. Championship
Average yards per reception – 14.6
Pass Receiving TDs - 1

Awards & Honors:
NFL Player of the Year: Bert Bell Award
1st team All-NFL/AFL: Pro Football Weekly
1st team All-NFL: AP, UPI, PFWA, NEA, NY Daily News, Pro Football Weekly
1st team All-Eastern Conference: Sporting News
Pro Bowl

Browns went 10-4 to finish first in the Century Division while ranking third in the NFL in rushing yards (2031), scoring (394 points), and TDs (49). Won Eastern Conference Championship over Dallas Cowboys (31-20). Lost NFL Championship to Baltimore Colts (34-0).

Aftermath:
While Kelly never again had a thousand-yard rushing season, he remained productive, gaining over 800 yards in three of the next four years as well as over a thousand yards from scrimmage. In all, he was selected to six straight Pro Bowls through 1971. His career ended in 1974 as a member of the WFL’s Chicago Fire, gaining 315 yards on the ground and catching 8 passes for 128 more yards. Upon leaving the NFL, he ranked fourth all-time with 7274 rushing yards and sixth in touchdowns with 90. Kelly also caught 190 passes for 2281 yards and gained 12,329 total yards. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Class of 1994.

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MVP Profiles feature players who were named MVP or Player of the Year in the NFL, AAFC (1946-49), AFL (1960-69), WFL (1974), or USFL (1983-85) by a recognized organization (Associated Press, Pro Football Writers Association, Newspaper Enterprise Association, United Press International, The Sporting News, Maxwell Club – Bert Bell Award, or the league itself). 

[Updated 2/8/14]