Ellison Lamar Kelly (born May 17, 1935 in Butler, Georgia), raised in Lake City, Florida and Sandusky, Ohio, is a former American and Canadian football offensive lineman for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats from 1960–1970 and the Toronto Argonauts from 1971-1972 of the Canadian Football League. He also played in the National Football League for the New York Giants. Kelly never missed a game in his 13 seasons in the CFL, playing 175 consecutive games. Kelly usually played guard or tackle, but the versatile performer also provided depth at the defensive end and linebacker positions. Teammates recall him as being a tough, solid competitor, even when injured. He won three Grey Cups for the Tiger-Cats in 1963, 1965 & 1967 and played in the 1971 Grey Cup with the Argonauts.
Kelly was drafted in the fifth round of the 1959 NFL Draft by the Giants after a stellar career at Michigan State University, but he opted to go to Canada to play in the CFL in his second season.
Kelly is one of the few football players to have a race horse named after him. "Wildcat Kelly" was a gelding pacer in the stable of Yellow and Black farms of Hamilton, a partnership of Dill (Pickles) Southwick, a former quarterback for the Hamilton Tigers, and businessmen Bruce Woodward and George Ridpath. (Yellow and Black were the colours of the Tiger Cats.) As of 1970, the six-year-old "Wildcat Kelly" had won $14,000 in its lifetime.
Kelly was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 1992. He spent most of his post-football life in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, as a Recreations Officer with the Hamilton Wentworth Detention Centre, where he was regarded as a gentle giant and a gentleman. He is a frequent guest on Tiger Cat alumni days and has been asked to speak on many occasions. His childhood family was a spiritual one. Ellison became 'the one', the family hope that one of theirs would get out of the poverty cycle. His speeches were dominated by a quite spiritual appreciation and gratitude for the wonderful life he has had. He continues to live in Hamilton where some of his family members still reside.
- ^ "Ticats set example for Wildcat Kelly; 1st win of season", Toronto Globe and Mail, Wednesday 14 October 1970, p. 34.
By Dean Hanley
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