For many athletes, they are given an opportunity of a lifetime from beginning to end. They grow up in a supportive community where everyone looks out for each other and helps each other out when necessary. They have support from others from the minute they’re born until the minute they die and they always have those they can rely on when times get tough. For Reggie Kelly of the Atlanta Falcons, he understands exactly how important it is to have a community stick together and support each other through thick and thin.
“From where I’m from we’d always say that it takes a village to raise our kids,” explained the Falcons tight end. “I’ve always wanted to give back and be some form of inspiration and help those that are less fortunate than me or give someone some sort of inspiration and encouragement,” he continued. “When people know that you care about them they’re more responsive to you and in return they’re willing to go the extra mile for the next person. I’ve always wanted to give back to the kids and it’s always been my passion to help them out and encourage them to be whatever they want to be because no one should put a box around them to keep their options limited.”
For Reggie Kelly, he has had the support from his community all his life and the minute he entered the NFL, he was given even more support from veterans who took him under his wing without having to be asked by the coaches or team personnel.
“When I first came into the NFL one of my teammates, Bob Christian, introduced me to Pro Athletes Outreach and told me it’d be a good opportunity for me to go and learn about what some players go through and the struggles that they face and they try to show you that there is an opportunity that can be capitalized on,” explained Kelly.
Pro Athletes Outreach‘s vision is to recruit and equip an army of coaches, professional athletes and their families to make a positive impact in the world for Jesus Christ. Their mission is to conduct Christ-centered programs and conferences to equip professional athletes, coaches and their families to make a positive impact in the world.
For a guy like Reggie Kelly who takes great pride in the veteran role, he’s delighted to know that what he taught Jermaine Gresham during his time with the Cincinnati Bengals is going to be passed on to the next generation and will continue to be passed on by players to rookies for years to come.
“It’s funny how things change when you get older,” chuckled Kelly. “To lead and encourage guys is in my job description so some of the same things the veterans used to teach me when I was younger, I’m doing the same things for guys like Jermaine Gresham and Julio Jones. I love it because you know that when you’re gone from the game, the guys are going to pass on what they know to the next generation and your legacy lives on.”
Every year during the holiday season, Kelly is active within his community of Aberdeen, Mississippi, as he hands out 82 turkeys to the elderly during Thanksgiving, as well as 82 hams during Christmas time.
“The elderly are near and dear to my heart,” said Kelly. “I know a lot of them because they raised us growing up, so not only did my parents raise me, but we had a lot of elderly people around my hometown that helped raise me when I wasn’t around my parents.”
Aside from giving back to the elderly in his community and the rookies he takes the field with, Kelly also gives back to the youth from his hometown as he tries to pave the way for all the young children to have a successful future someday. During the team’s Thursday night game this season against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Kelly chartered a bus from Aberdeen to Atlanta for his high school’s football team so they could come check out a professional game, see the world outside of Aberdeen and to get close to the professional athletes from the stands and on the field so it could encourage them to reach out for their dreams, whatever they may be. The kids got to take in a professional football game free of charge and got to meet the players and take photos with Julio Jones.
“You have to focus on both generations because as long as you have life you can impact people, no matter how old or young,” stated Kelly. “I know where I’m from the elderly are instrumental in raising the kids and when I was younger my parents gave the elderly, especially my grandma, the free range to do what they wanted when they weren’t around and I think little things like that made me who I am today and I give credit to them for that,” he added. “I never forget it and I don’t take it lightly and I get disappointed when I do see people that take it lightly or they forget where they come from or the people who have been instrumental in their lives. Any time I can go out and help out and give a hug and put a smile on someone’s face, whether it’s a kid or the elderly, I’m up for it,” concluded Kelly.
Reggie Kelly understands that regardless of the stats you put up, you’re in the spotlight as a professional athlete and someone out there somewhere could be looking up to you and wants to follow in your footsteps. He believes that he wasn’t placed in the NFL to make money, but to help influence younger players and the communities around him to give back to those who are less fortunate and to be a guiding light for someone.
“I wasn’t placed here to make money, I was placed here to help people achieve their dreams. Shame on any NFL athlete that isn’t taking advantage of the spotlight that they’re in and trying to influence the younger generation by any shape, form or fashion.”
To learn more about Pro Athletes Outreach, visit www.pao.org
To learn more about Reggie Kelly, visit his website http://www.reggiekelly82.com/