Monday Night scholar

KIRK PENTON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:54 AM ET

Every Monday a Sun staffer gets to know a sports figure a little better in Up Close. This week, Kirk Penton stands on the sideline with Mike Kelly, who has landed his dream job as the new head coach of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. Here is Part 1, with the second instalment appearing next Monday.

The Sun: Tell us about your upbringing.

Kelly: Father was Jim, mother was Hilda. My mother's parents were immigrants from Hungary and my father's from Ireland. Born in Waterbury, Conn., and by the time I'd gotten out of high school I'd gone to nine different high schools in five different states. My dad was a football coach when I was young, and football's always kind of been the centrepiece of everything that I did.

TS: You taught a course called "Monday Night Football" at Drexel University.

TS: What was a typical class like, and where do I sign up?

MK: Oh, that was so much fun! It was basically looking at how Monday Night Football is really a social icon and how it economically impacted all of North America, because now there was another night, with the weekend extended, to have an excuse to drink. They had to write a paper every week that had to do with things like the Dennis Miller experiment, Roone Arledge -- people of history that these kids normally wouldn't know about. It was a three-hour class. We'd start at seven, and I would give a 45-minute lecture on the social impact in each decade that Monday Night Football had. Then I would give a Football 101 section, which would be, 'When they say a screen or a draw or a blitz, do we know what these things mean?' And I'd explain that. Then we'd end it at about half-time of the game, which would be right around 10 o'clock.

TS: You held the class on Monday night?

MK: Guys would be saying, 'Aw, coach, can't we drink in class, because when we get out of here everybody is way ahead of us?' When Joe Theismann was on the show, I'd say, 'Look, I've got a drinking game that will catch all of you up with your buddies. Every time Theismann says 'I,' 'me' or 'When I played ...' chug a beer -- you'll be caught up by the end of the third quarter.' And they thought that was the greatest game ever. It was a great class.

TS: Who was the craziest Bomber during your stint with the team in the 1990s?

MK: One of the funniest human beings I've ever been around in my life is Chris Walby. Just a great sense of humour. I absolutely loved the way the guy played the game, how he approached the game and just how funny he was. Crazy can mean a lot of different things. Let's just stick with Walby right now.

TS: How good of a quarterback were you at Bluffton College?

MK: I was better than average.

TS: You are in their hall of fame, correct?

MK: I am. They'd been playing football since 1899, and when I graduated from there (in 1980) I was third in pass completions all-time, fourth in attempts and fifth in yardage -- and fastest that they've ever had from hash to sideline.

TS: Your thesis at Edinboro University was titled The Motivation and Handling of Problem Athletes. You know the Bombers traded Charles Roberts last year, right?

MK: (laughs) One down, and a couple more to go.


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