When players leave the Buffalo Bills they often miss the food most and Chris Kelsay is no different. He misses the wings and the city.
Kelsay was a first round pick for the Bills and spent his entire career playing in front of the Bills Mafia. A second-round draft pick out of Nebraska back in 2003, Kelsay played 10 seasons in Buffalo a starter and captain. Buffalo sure misses him out there to sacking Tom Brady this season.
But the Kelsay family has officially been watching football from the comforts of their theatre room now… eating delicious Nebraska corn.
In those 10 years Chris had a lot of great Buffalo wings with his wife Natalie Kelsay. Natalie has played an integra part in Mr. Kelsay’s successful career after meeting at the University of Nebraska. The couple shared their first home together, had 3 kids, helped build a faith community and much more there in Hamburg, NY.
Theresa Villano, of Pro Player Insiders, caught up with this NFL Woman of the Month to find out what Natalie and Chris have been up to in their newly built dream home in Nebraska.
Pro Player Insiders: Mrs. Natalie Kelsay, it’s been a while. What has life been like without the Buffalo Bills consuming your life? What do you miss about Buffalo and the city most? Which staff members and wives do you miss? Does Chris mention missing anything?
NK: It’s been different but great! This will be Chris’s 3rd season out of the league so we’re finally adjusted to retirement. The first year was hard- I missed Buffalo more than I even anticipated, but it’s great to be back home around friends and family- especially for the holidays. I miss my friends from the team and just the excitement of the season. We were there for 10 years- had our first home together, brought all 3 kids home from the hospital there, first birthdays, first Christmases, first day of school. I miss the Williams family and Fred and Kathy I think Chris just misses the guys. And the food- the food was always great in Buffalo!
PPI: Natalie, it’s been since February 27, 2013 when Chris announced his retirement. That’s after 10 seasons in the NFL. What was the reason for retirement?
NK: To play 10 years, especially for the same team was always a goal of his and he wanted to walk away on his own terms- without being pushed out the door. And his recent injuries and the fact that there’d be another new coaching staff added to it.
PPI: What have you and Chris been up to? Any projects or investments?
NK: Just spending time with the kids and enjoying friends and family. We like to travel. We just bought a lake house so we’re excited about that. He took a little over a year off but he’s a busy body so he started back to work last May.
PPI: We heard you guys built your dream home in Nebraska. Describe it! What are the best parts of your custom home?
NK: We did. We love it. We have about 50 acres on a river with a small private lake. Some of our favorite parts are the movie theater, pool, fire pit, and large outdoor entertaining area. We like to host get togethers with friends and family.
PPI: You spend most of your married life as an NFL wife. What were the best parts of that and some of the hardships?
NK: 9 of our 11 years of married life I guess. The best part was definitely the people. I’ve always been a huge football fan and growing up in Nebraska, a cornhusker fan. The Bills fans and city of buffalo love the Bills the way we love the Huskers in Nebraska. We made lots of great friend thru the years in buffalo and made a home there for 10 years. WE were really blessed. The only bad part was being away from our loved ones in Nebraska. Well that and 10 years without the playoffs
PPI: Do you and Chris still watch the Bills? What are your thoughts on the Bills 2015-’16 season? What do you hope for them with the new coach Rex Ryan?
NK: Absolutely!! We’ll always be Bills fans. Really hoping for the playoffs this year especially for the friends we still have on the team. We plan to take the kids out to a game this season to visit.
PPI: Chris was drafted in the 2nd round in 2003 as the 48th pick. What was the moment like hearing name called? Where were you? Who were you with?
NK: It was pretty exciting and a big relief. He was a projected mid first rounder, so he was getting anxious. I wasn’t much of an NFL fan, I only watched college football. I was just glad it wasn’t Cleveland because I hated their colors We were at his parents’ house in Auburn NE with our parents and a lot of his family and friends.
PPI: What did it mean to you knowing your husband had and still has so many fans in Buffalo? Has there ever been a fan has reached out to you?
NK:It’s awesome. Like I said, we’ll always love Buffalo. Fans reached out a lot when we lived there and he was invited back his first year retired to lead the charge at the home opener so that was fun. No crazy fan stories though…luckily!
PPI: While in Buffalo you were a big part of the Buffalo Bills Woman’s Association. Tell us more about your involvement and favorite services projects for Western NY communities.
NK: The Bills always had a great group of woman who were very generous. I think a lot of that was thanks to Mr. Wilson. We were involved in lots of different charities over the years but some of my favorites were Touchdown Turkeys- shopping at Tops around Thanksgiving to stock the Food Bank and helping shop and wrap gifts for the Bills holiday party for kids. The last several years in Buffalo Chris and I personally worked with the United Way buying Christmas gifts for kids and hosting a Christmas party. We also donated our suite for several game to those same kids at the United Way. We used to visit Kids Escaping Drugs and hosting kids in the suite for that as well. Being in the NFL gives you a huge platform for doing things like this and we always had so much with it. Buffalo is a very generous community and I’m glad we were able to give back a little.
PPI: Tell me about the role faith has played in your life.
NK: It plays a huge role. I grew up going to a Lutheran School, going to church and Sunday school every week so I had a solid foundation. Then meeting Chris who is strong in his faith and being in Buffalo, it just continued and played an even larger role. And as a parent I think it’s the most important thing you can do for your child- to be a good Christian role model.
PPI: Buffalo Bill’s team bible holds/held a weekly couple’s bible study with Athletes in Action, that you were a major part of. How has that experience (and Fred and Kathy Raines) influenced your life as an NFL family?
NK: Ahhhh… I still miss our Bible studies. We had a great group through the years. Our Wednesday morning women’s study and Thursday night team Bible study were both a huge part of our week. And Fred and Kathy did a great job. Getting to attend the Night out at the Bills at the Buffalo Christian Center and speak about my faith helped me to be more vocal in my belief in Jesus Christ. As did getting to run a weekly women’s study was great too.
PPI: What other Bills couples did you develop strong fellowship with through Bible study?
NK: Lots over the years- Jill and Kyle Williams, Scott Chandler, Peerless and Neisha Price, London and Charne Fletcher, Natalie and Jason Whittle, Ryan and Tiffany Neil, Ryan and Dawn Neufeld, Tasha and Larry Tripplett, and you (Theresa Villano).
PPI: What bible verse does the Kelsey family love and live by?
NK: My favorite verse is- Jeremiah 29:11. “For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future.” Lots of good stuff in that verse and a reminder that God is always doing what is best for us.
Your husband and Football…
PPI: How did you meet Mr. Chris Kelsay? You are both Nebraska Husker, right?
NK: We actually met at a bar through mutual friends. And yep- we are both Huskers. He was going into his senior year at Nebraska and I had already graduated and was working full time.
Being an NFL wife…
PPI: Essentially when your husband was drafted, you were drafted too. What was it like as a rookie wife in a new city and how has your life changed in the in the 10 years Chris has played?
NK: It was scary and overwhelming at first. But as a second round pick the city welcomes Chris with open arms- from the realtor the team got us to the yard guy or people we saw out to eat. It changed a lot in those 10 years. When I first moved to buffalo in August of 2003 (almost 12 years ago) we were just engaged. We made a home there and welcomed 3 kids into the world in that time. Lots of good memories. It will always have a special place in our hearts.
PPI: There are a group of Buffalo Bills wives that bonded from 2006-2013. You ladies all still go on trips together. Who are the woman and how did you guys get so close?
NK: It was me, Jill Williams, Tiffany Neill, June Schobel, Laura Denney, and Johna Lindell. When you don’t have your family around, your friends become your family!
PPI: More specifically, which one of them have you become closest to? Tell me about her. When did you meet?
NK: Jill Williams. We met at Bible Study her rookie year (2006) My oldest Harper was just a baby and she was pregnant with her firsti. We bonded over our love of college football- the husker for me and LSU for her. She invited herself over for pizza and football one Saturday when the guys were gone and we just clicked. And we’ve been friends ever sinde. We were each other’s support during training camp and away games. Our kids grew up together. I bet we talked at least 3 times a day, spent every weekend and holiday together. They became our family and are still some of our closest friends. Always will be.
PPI: You have 3 children. Tell us a couple words to describe each of them. Which was the biggest Bills fan?
NK: Our oldest Harper is 9, going into 4th grade. Harp is smart, funny, creative, and super outgoing. She is friends with everyone and is never afraid of what people think of her- which is pretty rare at her age. Avery is 6 and going into 1st grade. Avery is brave and strong and the perfect combination of sassy and sweet. Very girly- loves lip gloss and purses. Rhett is 4 and is all boy. He’s my sweet mama’s boy. But he likes to cause trouble with Avery.I think Harper was probably the biggest fan just because she got to experience it the most being the oldest.
PPI: We remember the outpouring of love the Bills organization and fans poured out to your family after your second child, Avery, was born. What was her condition?
NK:: She was born with a large nevus covering the left side of her face. It was completely undetected in the pregnancy. The Bills family was awesome! Actually when Coach Dick Jauron was the head coach he lived in Chicago in the offseason. Avery had a surgery that June and he invited us to his house and to dinner with his wife. He always called Chris to check up on her.
PPI: How is Avery doing now? How has her medical issues changed your lives?
NK: She’s doing great 6 years and 7 surgeries later. She’s been through a lot but she really is the toughest person I know. It’s added a lot of perspective and strengthened my faith even more. I’m just thankful she’s healthy and happy. Many parents and families have to go through much worse- we’re lucky.
PPI: What is the biggest stereotype about NFL wives that you have found to be ‘not true’?
NK: Probably that we aren’t “normal” women. We’re moms, we go to target and the grocery store in our gym clothes, volunteer at our kid’s schools, cook our own meals. The Real Housewives of Buffalo wouldn’t have been very exciting- let’s put it that way. And I mean that in a good way- the best way.
PPI: What advice would you give other women about balancing their lives? Or what is your mantra to live by to leave with fans?
NK: I definitely have more balance now in retirement. But I’ll share one of my favorite quotes- “Life is going by. Don’t waste a minute being negative, offended, or bitter. Choose to be happy. ”
While Natalie misses the WNY food, Bills Mafia, the families she grew to love, the Buffalo community, and wearing #90′s jersey again; the Kelsay estate is thriving and better then ever in Nebraska.
Wishing you a Happy Thanksgiving filled with family, friends and football.
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