ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly believes that his nephew, Denver Broncos rookie quarterback Chad Kelly, has “finally got it” after his turbulent college career at Clemson and, later, Ole Miss.
The Broncos selected Kelly with the final selection, No. 253, in last month’s draft.
“I told Chad, ‘Don’t worry about going in there and thinking you’re going to compete for that starting job,'” Jim Kelly told ESPN on Thursday. “The bottom line is, you gotta go there and get healthy, learn the system and be humble. And I think he’s finally got it. He understands that.”
Broncos executive vice president of football operations/general manager John Elway called Jim Kelly, his friend and fellow member of the 1983 draft class, to ask about Chad Kelly before selecting him. Kelly said his nephew was “a good kid,” and Elway later told reporters that he trusted Kelly’s advice and was comfortable with the pick.
“I can’t go into all the details, but he wanted to know a little bit about Chad, and I told him,” Jim Kelly said Thursday. “And I said a lot of things that have happened have been three years ago. Sooner or later, people got to forget about that. I understand, you got to bring things up. Some of the stuff to me, totally [has been] blown up.”
Chad Kelly was dismissed by Clemson in 2014 over disagreements with coaches. In 2015, he pleaded guilty to a non-criminal disorderly charge following an argument with bouncers at a Buffalo bar in December 2014. Last October, Kelly left the crowd and entered the field during a brawl at his younger brother’s high school football game in Buffalo.
“The bottom line is, you gotta go there and get healthy, learn the system and be humble. And I think he’s finally got it. He understands that.”
Jim Kelly, on nephew Chad Kelly
“He wasn’t involved in no brawl,” Jim Kelly said Thursday. “But people have to put that as a headline, ‘Chad Kelly involved in a brawl.’ He goes, ‘Uncle Jim, I saw my little brother getting kicked. What do you want me to do, stand there and watch?’ He said, ‘I wasn’t doing anything wrong, I was just trying to get him off the bottom of the pile at a high school football game.'”
Kelly underwent wrist surgery last month after suffering an injury during his pro day. He also suffered a torn ACL in November that required surgery. He is expected to recover from both injuries in time for training camp this summer.
“The main thing, the kid threw 25,000 passes in his life, and his 50 most important passes [at his pro day], he hurts his wrist,” Jim Kelly said Thursday. “But when you have the work ethic like he does, I never had that. I mean, I had fun, I worked my tail off, but this kid is just off the charts.
“I said, ‘Just go in there, focus on learning the playbook, focus on what it takes to be a professional and let us handle all the other stuff, Chad.’ He finally gets it. I’m excited for him. I really am.”
ESPN Broncos reporter Jeff Legwold contributed to this report.