Kelly, Mitchell impress Argos

MIKE KOREEN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:08 AM ET

A man who has not played football in four years and a guy who started playing the game just three years ago are making up for lost time with the Argos.

While the Argos looked far from good in a 31-3 loss against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the pre-season opener Friday at the Rogers Centre, rookie linebacker Jeff Kelly and rookie cornerback Leron Mitchell made good first impressions.

The 5-foot-11, 242-pound Kelly, whose playing career came to a temporary halt after the first game of the 2002 NFL season when he was released by the Atlanta Falcons, made three tackles Friday and is earning a reputation as a strong run-stopper. Mitchell, who played football for the first time at the University of Western Ontario in 2003 after specializing in track and field, knocked down a sure touchdown pass and recorded an interception.

"I don't think (Mitchell) has complicated (the team's decision-making process)," Argos coach Pinball Clemons said. "He has defined it and has said that 'I deserve a roster spot' and he'll get that and we'll continue to cultivate him and try to bring him along to a point where he'll hopefully start at that wide-field corner in the next little while ... He has only been playing football a couple years but he has got a huge, huge, huge upside."

Kelly, who is battling former Pro Bowler Lee Woodall for a spot, decided to try to revive his playing career after receiving a call from Argos defensive co-ordinator Rich Stubler, who had recruited him as a college player when he was working at Oregon. Kelly, 30, completed two degrees during his time away, took assistant coaching jobs at Kansas State and Oklahoma, and turned down what Clemons called a "lucrative" coaching offer to try out for the Argos.

"(The Argos) called for me like a year before and I was like, 'No, I'm done," Kelly said. "(But) I wasn't coaching (this year) and I said I'll try."

It has turned out to be a good decision for Kelly, who was employed by the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Chicago Rush of the Arena League since being released by the Falcons, but never played.

"It (the CFL) is a fun game, it really is," Kelly said. "It's a (much) bigger field. I learned that (Friday). Oh my goodness, I was chasing a guy for like 30 minutes until the sidelines."

But Clemons thinks Kelly is making a better-than-decent transition.

"He's a player," Clemons said. "To see the way he moves around, it just doesn't look like he misses a beat."


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