By Ryan Leong
Tommy Kelly, DT # 93
Weight: 325 lbs.
Hometown: Jackson, Miss.
College: Mississippi State
Experience: 9th season (all with Raiders)
Oakland defensive tackle Tommy Kelly is one of those veterans who embody the Raiders’ tough image that was originally established by greats like George Atkinson and John Matuszak.
Spending his entire career with the Silver and Black, Kelly is a native of Jackson, Mississippi. He played only one year of football at Provine High where he played both sides of the ball as a tight end and defensive end.
During his only full season playing high school football, he made 102 total tackles, including 11 sacks. Kelly was selected to play in the Mississippi/Alabama High School All-Star Game following his senior season.
He continued his football career at Mississippi State and played 22 games and earned 16 starts. He made 82 tackles while at MSU, including 15 for loss and two sacks. As a senior, Kelly moved from defensive tackle to defensive end, posting 50 tackles, eight stops for a loss, and one sack.
Undrafted by a team, he was picked up as a free agent by the Raiders in 2004. In his rookie campaign, he led the team with four sacks, three of those in his first three NFL games. In his first game played on October 24, he sacked the New Orleans Saints quarterback Aaron Brooks in the second quarter. The next week at San Diego, he forced a fourth-quarter punt by sacking Chargers quarterback Drew Brees. On November 7, he dropped Carolina Panthers QB Jake Delhomme for a 15-yard loss and forcing a fourth-quarter fumble in the Raiders win.
His second year he would play in all 16 games with 12 starts, eight of those at DE and four at DT. He also played on special teams and on November 6 at Kansas City, he tied a franchise record with a career-high three sacks, along with two forced fumbles. On Christmas Eve, at Denver he recorded a season high seven tackles, four solo. He finished the year with 4.5 sacks.
2006 was supposed to be his breakthrough year. He would start all 16 games and veteran Warren Sapp took Kelly under his wing. Teammate Ed Jasper told reporters in February 2006, “Tommy Kelly will be an absolute monster once he fully realizes his talents and abilities.”
Unfortunately even with that endorsement and the mentoring by Sapp, he only had 3.5 sacks, three pass defensed, and forced a fumble. Kelly was also criticized for his inability to defend against the run.
2007 was a injury plagued year for Kelly. He played in seven games with six starts before being placed on season ending injured reserve with a knee injury. He had 30 tackles and one sack.
After the season, he was signed to the largest contract ever given to a defensive tackle. On February 28, 2008, the Raiders signed Kelly on the eve of free agency. Kelly, a defensive end moving to defensive tackle in 2008, signed a seven-year, $50.5 million contract with $18.125 million in guarantees and $25.125 million in the first three years.
But Kelly failed to live up to the contract expectations and finished the 2008 season with 55 tackles (31 solo) and just 4.5 sacks, matching his career high set in 2005.
Off the field, he was arrested on September 15 for driving under the influence.
His 2010 season was his overall best, recording 60 tackes, 38 solo and seven sacks. He was named as an alternate to the 2011 Pro Bowl.
He was involved in that bench-clearing brawl this past Sunday in Cincinnati where he and teammate Lamar Houston were ejected. In the coming weeks, the league will hand down fines and possible suspensions. This year, Kelly only has 23 tackles and no sacks.
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Ryan Leong has reported on over 2,800 games in the Bay Area since 1998, covering the Sharks, Giants, A’s, Warriors, 49ers, Raiders and the local college teams for radio networks and wire services. Having the best seat in the house to watch sports has been a thrill and Ryan still enjoys going to the games giving fans some insight and perspective on the players and coaches. His work can be found on Examiner.com.