Dennis Kelly is more excited about tonight's Marist at Marian Catholic boys basketball game than he is about the big pre-game ceremony.
Kelly, a second-year offensive lineman for the Philadelphia Eagles, will have his pro jersey No. 67 retired before tonight's East Suburban Catholic Conference game. He is the youngest among the four Marian grads who played in the NFL.
"Mike Prior, John Holecek and Rodney Harrison, to be mentioned in the same group as those is quite an honor," Kelly said. "I am very fortunate to have the opportunity to play college and pro football."
Kelly played at Purdue and is proud of his Chicago Heights roots. In his video blurb on his Eagles biography page. Kelly said he is from Purdue and 'I proudly represent Chicago Heights, Illinois."
Kelly knows first-hand what a college and pro player goes through, including the potential for a career-ending injury. He says he favors a union for college players. He pointed out that it does not mean paying athletes. The union was proposed recently by Northwestern University football players.
"I think it is a fantastic idea," Kelly said. "(Northwestern quarterback Kain) Colter and his teammates have a good idea. They are not asking for pay to play, but they just want to be represented and I think it is a good idea."
What Kelly is talking about is players who get hurt and may not feel it until 10-12 years down the road.
"There were guys at Purdue who got hurt and had to stop playing," Kelly said. "There should be something for them. You get hurt in the NFL or in college, it doesn't make a difference. A concussion is a concussion, a spinal injury is a spinal injury. There needs to be something to take care of a player who hurt his shoulder or knee in college, then felt the effects 10 or 15 years later. Right now, there is nothing."
He said it's a right step, but the formation of union will not be an easy one because there are a lot of questions.
"The NCAA is trying to stall the movement," Kelly said. "I think they at least got it out there."
Kelly said he is lucky that his back injury was not career-threatening and he loves playing for the Eagles. As for a cold-weather Super Bowl, he said it doesn't matter.
"I'd love to be playing in one," Kelly said. "I think the weather is a little overblown because it is not going to be that bad and the Eagles and Lions played in a half a foot of snow. It's cold, but for the players, once you get into the game, you really don't pay a lot of attention to it."