RENTON – Spring is busy for Maurice “Mo” Kelly, as the newly fledged Seahawks rookies arrive and he begins the important duty of taking them under his wing.
He’s titled director of player development, and is considered a liaison between the players and coaching staff and the franchise.
There’s a great deal more to it, though, because he appears to operate the busiest office in the team headquarters – situated not on the corporate level or the staff level, but just around the corner from the locker room.
Guidance counselor? “Yep,” he answers. Father Confessor? “Yep.” Mother? “Yep.” Baby-sitter? “Yep.”
In a sense, he coaches life.
“We’re investing in our investment,” the 39-year-old former Seahawks safety said last week. “These guys are our most precious commodity and I’m honored to be the person who is something of the gatekeeper to them. I try everything in my power to help them.
“There’s a counseling aspect to it all. If they have questions about anything going on in any part of their life, they can come in and we’ll talk about it. It’s packed in here almost every day.”
Kelly calls his office a “one-stop shop.”
It might be something as small as advice on how not to get gouged on buying a TV or as important as off-field relationships. At times he makes them aware of the NFL programs for players that include continuing education or “boot camps” for those interested in post-career employment in business or broadcasting, movies or music.
Kelly proudly points out that former Seahawks players Patrick Kerney, Brian Russell and Bryce Fisher have either attained or are close to their MBA degrees. Receiver Ben Obomanu recently received his MBA.
“I have a list of which ones haven’t graduated, and how much more they need,” Kelly said. “I may see a guy who has only four hours to go for a degree, I’ll say, ‘Come on, we can get this, this is important.’”
Kelly sends his message from the start – and not just to the players. The Seahawks invited the parents of the drafted rookies to the recent rookie camp, and he “coached” them, as well.
“I told them exactly how it is,” Kelly said. “I’m going to be honest and not sugar-coat anything. And they know it comes from a good place and from somebody who’s been there.”
The cold realities of the business are best understood up front, he stressed.
“Before they play a snap, I tell all our guys the same thing: What you see is the glitz and glamour and all the money you’re going to make,” Kelly said. “But don’t lose sight of this fact: This game is going to beat your ass up. Your body is not going to be the same, and sooner or later, this game kicks you out.”
Those who think playing football is a career are mistaken, he said, so he tries to convince players that the NFL is best viewed as a stepping stone to the rest of life, a chance to make good money for a short period of time. His own NFL career stands as an example: Kelly played in 24 games over two seasons for the Seahawks, and that was it.
“I have a motto that I give them: Live beneath your means now so you can live comfortably later,” he said.
He explained that they’ve been shepherded through fairly rigid schedules in college, and suddenly they find themselves with some freedom and a supply of money many could never have imagined. “And then we expect them to always make the right decisions? But think back to when you’re 22 years old … we know they’re going to make mistakes.”
And when Kelly can’t help them avoid the mistakes, he is there to help pick them up.
“Guys can come in here and be themselves,” he said. “When they come into this room, we talk about everything and they don’t have to worry about me being the judge. Whatever their situation, I’m here to help. What is said in here stays in here. They know they can trust me and they know I’m here for them. All I ask in return is they be honest with me.”
Kelly approaches his job with such enthusiasm that he says his wife doesn’t ask if he’s going to work, she asks if he’s going to “play.”
“I’m passionate about football and also about helping people; this job intertwines them,” he said. “I listen to them and try to teach by the way I live my life.”
The job, he said, is not really about football or even the Seahawks franchise.
“It’s about them as individuals, as men,” he said. “I want to help them be the best men they can be, the best father, best son, best husband … best contributor to society that they can possibly be.”Dave Boling: 253-597-8440 email@example.com