Former Sooner Malcolm Kelly overcomes injury, criticism to play in the big leagues
Amanda Turner, The Oklahoma Daily
ASHBURN, Va. — Malcolm Kelly celebrated Oklahoma’s 2007 Big 12 championship victory with a freestyle rap staccatoed through an understandably huge grin.
After all, not only had his Sooners just hammered Missouri 38-17 to win their second conference crown in a row, but Kelly seemed set to launch his 6-foot-4 frame into the National Football League as talk of his being a first-round selection grew louder and louder. At the time, it seemed like 2008 would be Malcolm Kelly’s year.
First, Kelly missed OU’s Fiesta Bowl loss to West Virginia with a quadriceps injury. Then came his pro day, where, according to reports, Kelly lashed out at some Sooner coaches after a last-minute switch in running surfaces might have contributed to his less-than-stellar time in the 40-yard dash.
“I guess I learned from it a little bit,” Kelly said. “I should have talked it over more with [director of sports enhancement Jerry Schmidt]. I’m sorry for the way I blew up.”
Those concerns about injuries, speed and attitude caused Kelly’s name to slide into the second round of the draft, where the Washington Redskins selected him with the 51st overall pick. His quadriceps injury, along with arthroscopic knee surgery in August, limited Kelly to five games in his rookie season, where he caught just three passes for 18 yards. Another knee surgery in January followed a disappointing season for Kelly and the Redskins (8-8).
Kelly is now healthy and ready to shake off 2008.
“When I rolled out of my bed this morning, I was like ‘Man, this has been a long time coming,’” Kelly said after participating in his first full organized team activity of the off-season. “I was just anxious to get back out there and actually run a route, have a ball hit my hands and cut upfield.”
Though Kelly began 2009 with a surgery, it was a more minor procedure than doctors first believed.
In other words, Kelly finally caught a break.
“It was a real big relief, because at Oklahoma, I had the one knee problem [sophomore year],” Kelly said. “To keep me away from the field as long as it did last year, it turned on a light in me, that it wasn’t going to be as complicated as it was [thought to be].”
It seems to be enough to get Kelly on the field and up to full speed.
“What was nice [about the June 1 practice] was we didn’t have to give him any rest,” Redskins head coach Jim Zorn said. “He just took his normal reps. We didn’t limit him in any way. We didn’t put him on little short routes, hoping he could last for the practice. We just practiced him, and that was a tremendous sign.”
Kelly, if healthy, could quickly boost a Redskins’ offense that finished 23rd in passing yards per game last season.
“We will throw it to him deep,” Washington receivers coach Stan Hixon said. “He doesn’t have blazing speed, but really, you don’t need to have blazing speed with his height. Just get him in a jump ball situation, and we think we’ll get a catch or pass interference. Don’t let them catch it, and we’ll be fine.”
It was a strategy that Kelly employed often and effectively to hook up with Sam Bradford, Paul Thompson and Rhett Bomar for 2,285 yards and 21 touchdowns while at OU. Both of those numbers put Kelly second in school history for a career in those categories.
Kelly would also like to dwell on those, and other positives, when he considers his relationship with the OU, and not the harsh words he uttered after his pro day faux pas.
“I try to dial [controversy] down as much as I could, because I was there for three years, and there are a lot of fans there and I met a lot of people there, so I just didn’t want to burn that bridge like that,” he said.