From Beaver to BomberFrom Beaver to Bomber
Mike Kelly, class of 1980
Head coach, Canadian Football League's Winnipeg Blue Bombers
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
Major: health, physical education and recreation
A desire to play and coach.
"It was the prettiest campus I'd ever seen," Mike Kelly said about his decision to attend Bluffton. "It was February, and there was snow everywhere. It just felt right. Plus, my goal was to be a high school coach." In addition to the scenery, Mike was drawn to Bluffton by a dedicated coach, a promising collegiate football career and the opportunity to become a coach.
Leaning on relationships.
Mike played for the Beavers despite the fact that the head coach who recruited him retired right before his freshman season began. After three rough seasons, Mike became Coach Carlin Carpenter's quarterback. The relationships that Mike formed on the field and with the coaches at Bluffton have stuck with him in his professional career. He continues to stay in contact with Coach Carpenter and former assistant coach David Moyer. "Bluffton fostered great relationships for me," says Mike. "And most importantly, they have endured. The educational base, the demands and expectations of the students and the way we were encouraged educationally, socially and philosophically at Bluffton have helped me more than I can say. Bluffton was, and still is, a great place."
Born to coach.
Some people are born to do certain things; Mike was born to coach. His father was a high school football coach for the first 11 years of Mike's life and served as one of his greatest mentors. Mike has coached for one high school, six colleges and universities and five professional football teams, serving under Andy Reid with the Philadelphia Eagles and Steve Spurrier with the Washington Redskins. He has also worked as a football consultant at ESPN.
Coaching to teaching to coaching.
Mike took a three-year break from coaching to teach sport management at Drexel University. He soon returned to the sidelines, as the receivers coach for the Canadian Football League (CFL)'s Edmonton Eskimos. "I always wanted to coach, and, once you coach, it just becomes who you are," says Mike. "I did the teaching thing, but I just couldn't stop coaching." In December 2008, Mike was hired as the new head coach of the CFL's Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
Bringing home the trophy.
As Mike steps into the head coaching position, he notes that his free time is practically nonexistent, while his responsibilities are ever-increasing. But with the responsibility comes the relationships on which he thrives. And the city of Winnipeg, where two of his three daughters were born, holds a special place in his heart. "If I can bring a Grey Cup to the city of Winnipeg, it would be a tremendous accomplishment," says Mike. "It has always been my dream to coach here."