In August of 2009 this quote from the movie Forrest Gump hit home for Cincinnati Bengal Reggie Kelly. It was the beginning of training camp for the then-11-year veteran.
“The Bengals sustained their first significant injury of training camp”Kelly “left practice with what some were calling a serious Achilles injury. A torn Achilles would end the season for one of their best blockers.” “Reggie Kelly’s 2009 NFL season is over before it even began.”
Later headlines confirmed that the tight end had in fact ruptured his Achilles. Reggie was immediately scheduled for surgery and placed on the injured reserved list. The big unanswered question for pundits, fans and teammates was whether No. 82 would ever return to the game.
For a 32-year-old professional football player, a ruptured Achilles tendon can be career-ending and at best take months of rehabilitation to recover.
“No one expected the old goat to come back,” Reggie said. “I talked to my wife and we prayed. I put my trust in God and knew that it was His will that would determine whether or not I would be back in the game.”
The Rev, as Reggie is affectionately called by his teammates, said that, “my faith a
llowed me to have peace of mind with the uncertainty of the outcome, but physically I had a lot of work to do. I had to make sure my body mind and spirit where prepared for whatever God had planned.”
Reggie believed that his injury created an opportunity for him to be an example to the younger players on how to handle adversity. “Your attitude will determine your altitude,” he said. With this is in mind he set out to prove that with faith, hard work and determination you can get through life’s unexpected challenges. “That doesn’t mean that everything is always going to turn out the way you want it to,” Reggie added, “but that these things are going to prepare us for the next phase in our life for something bigger and better. Ultimately we’re preparing for heaven.”
Prepare he did. Reggie worked extremely hard in the weight room and with his rehab trainer running drills but also did something else that not many athletes would do. He reached out to his younger competition on the team to help them prepare too.
Prepared is the title of the book Reggie recently published. “The book is my story and is filled with examples of the how I handled different situations including the mistakes I made and lessons I learned. I realized a long time ago that life is not about Reggie Kelly as an individual and when I finally stopped worrying about me and focused on God and helping people I felt complete.”
When asked about Reggie, one of his teammates, left tackle Andrew Whitworth, has said, “he is like a father figure in the locker room or a big brother. Guys know they can go to him for anything.” For Reggie’s part he says, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” His goal is to show people how much he cares on and off the field.
Reggie believes that God gave him the NFL platform to have a positive impact on others. He hopes to help others understand that they can achieve anything they desire regardless of their situation. He says, “Life isn’t always fair, but whatever hand you’re dealt, just play it.”
In the end all of Reggie’s preparation paid off and he returned to his starting position for the 2010 season and played every game. This year he says he is feeling better then ever and is ready, whenever the lockout ends, to play his 13th season with the Bengals.
Reggie is married to his high school sweetheart, Sheila, and they have two children –daughter Kyla and son Kavan. To learn more about Reggie Kelly and the things he is involved in you can go to www.reggiekelly82.com.
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