History in motion

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:05 AM ET

Ryan Kelly liked to drink the free soda in the Edmonton Eskimos' locker room.

Tagging along with his superstar father Brian Kelly, few things as a kid were probably better in Ryan's book than strolling around Commonwealth Stadium.

Now - two decades later - Ryan has a chance to earn his own stall in the famed Eskimo locker room.

The Green and Gold signed the 24-year-old receiver and local product to a contract yesterday, meaning he starts rookie camp today.

"Every picture of me around the house has me sitting in the lockerroom or something like that," said Ryan.

"When I walked in there the other day, I was just like - I can't believe this is happening."

From Worchester State - a small Division III school in Massachusetts - Ryan will even wear his father's old No. 70.

"I am pretty sure Dwayne (Mandrusiak, the Eskimo equipment manager) took great pride in pulling that out and giving it to me," remarked Ryan, who didn't ask for the number.

"(Dwayne) said: 'Here is your number.'

"I looked at him and said: 'Dwayne, you have got to be kidding me.'

"Maybe it will bring me some good luck."

Ryan will need some luck heading into camp. Going against four CFL veteran non-import receivers to earn a job, life won't be easy.

The former Scona high school quarterback turned receiver also doesn't bring a lot of size to the table.

At 5-foot-8 and 160 pounds, he's not exactly a big target. His stats aren't exactly impressive, either.

In 10 games last year he had just 15 catches for 188 yards.

But Eskimo head coach Danny Maciocia denies Ryan's signing has anything to do with providing a favour to a well-respected former player like Brian Kelly.

"We're not really in the business of doing favours," stated Maciocia.

"He deserves an opportunity.

"It really is a replica - a facsimile of his dad.

"When you watch him play, he is catching everything that is thrown his way."

Ryan claims he is much faster than his dad ever was during his nine seasons in Edmonton - which ultimately earned him a spot in the Canadian Football Hall of Fame.

The well-spoken younger Kelly is also pretty sharp as a football agent.

Acting as his own agent, Ryan sent tapes of his college career to teams, hoping to get noticed.

"I had a couple of teams that had a little more interest and I really hadn't heard much from the Eskimos," remembered Ryan.

"And then the day after the draft, they just gave me a call and said: 'Would you like to be an Eskimo?'

"I said: 'Absolutely, I couldn't ask for anything more.'"

Not surprisingly, Brian is trying to avoid the spotlight with his son, preferring to let him write his own story.

In the car business in Minnesota, Brian didn't make himself available for media interviews yesterday.

"My dad hasn't said too much," continued Ryan. "He just wants me to go out there and do the best that I can, put a good foo t forward and catch some balls."

And if he does happen to make a few highlight reel catches during the pre-season, don't expect Ryan to act any different than his calm and collected father from years ago.

"If he saw me get up and showboat he would probably still bring it down on me and tell me he was going to take my sports away from me, or ground me," added Ryan.

JONATHAN.HUNTINGTON@SUNMEDIA.CA


Videos

Photos