I spent an hour on Friday night talking to an amazing man.
Anthony Kelley is a former University of Washington football player who found a calling that had nothing to do with athletics.
Readers of “Scoreboard Baby“, which documents the Huskies phenomenal success on the field and the disgusting behavior of players and coaches off the field during the 2000 season, are introduced to Kelley, who was a starting linebacker on that Huskies Pac-10 and Rose Bowl championship team. But while his team drew more and more attention for their victories, Kelley was already looking into whether he could study abroad in South Africa. Suffice to say, a football player with interests thousands of miles away was unusual, and his coaches were not enthusiastic about Kelley’s plans.
Kelley goes, and it launches him on an educational, personal and professional path not even he could have imagined. He is now a man deeply concerned about humanity, diversity and inspiring young people.
My sports reporting class is reading “Scoreboard Baby”, and Kelley has agreed to talk to the class on Wednesday.
I thought our chat on Friday night would be simple: Let’s plan for what he’d discuss with my students. Instead, we engaged in one of the most thought provoking and engaging conversations I’ve had in many years. We talked about his life, including the powerful documentary about him, and how football can consume the men who play it and coach it.
Kelley relayed why a life of service and reflection matters to him. And, yes, we talked about how any institution not grounded in ethics and honesty is ultimately empty.
Kelley and I do have a plan for Wednesday, and it’s one designed to ensure the students see sports as far more than wins and losses. But more importantly, Kelley will inspire them to think about what they can do with their lives that goes far beyond a job title.
I know it will be an awesome conversation.