November 30, 2022
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Chad Kelly career timeline: How Jim Kelly’s nephew went from NFL draft pick to CFL Grey Cup hero

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Late in the fourth quarter of the 109th Grey Cup, the Toronto Argonauts were forced to turn to their backup quarterback after starter McLeod Bethel-Thompson went out with an injury to his throwing hand. 

Enter Chad Kelly. Yes, that Chad Kelly. 

The nephew of NFL legend Jim Kelly and former Ole Miss QB proceeded to put himself in the CFL history book on Sunday night, helping the Argonauts to a 24-23 comeback win over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

Kelly led the eventual game-winning touchdown drive for the Argos, highlighted by his 20-yard run on second-and-15 that kept the series alive. He finished with four completions on six attempts for 43 yards and two carries for 21 yards. 

Kelly was emotional after the win. He paid tribute to his late grandfather and discussed how difficult the season had been. 

“It’s a blessing, I thank the good lord,” Kelly said. “My grandfather, he had a big part of this man and I wish he was here to see it today. But I know upstairs, he’s smiling right now. I know it. . . . This year’s been so hard mentally for me, but I know there was no give up and everything worked out.”

MORE: CFL Grey Cup winners list by team

The 28-year-old had just completed his first CFL season. He backed up Bethel-Thompson for all of it, with the exception of the regular-season finale. 

Kelly’s football career has been marred by off-field incidents and multiple dismissals from teams. How did the signal-caller known as “Swag Kelly” make his way north of the border and become a CFL champion? Here’s a look at his journey.

Chad Kelly career timeline

2008-09: While at Red Lion (Pa.) High School, Kelly was suspended for the final seven games of his freshman season for undisclosed reasons. His sophomore year, he was suspended for one game, again for reasons that were not made public. A week later, Kelly was dismissed from the team. 

2009-11: Kelly enrolled at St. Joseph’s Collegiate Institute for his junior and senior years. The team won the Monsignor Martin Association AA title in 2010 and Kelly was named MVP of the championship game. The next year, Kelly led his team back to the championship game. Ahead of his senior season, he committed to Clemson.

2012-13: After redshirting his first year at Clemson, Kelly appeared in five games for the Tigers in 2013. In April 2014, he was dismissed from the program because of “conduct detrimental to the team.”

2014: Kelly dropped down to the junior college level, spending one season at East Mississippi Community College. He started 12 games for the Lions and helped lead them to the NJCAA National Football Championship. He committed to Ole Miss in December of that year. 

December 2014: Kelly was arrested outside a Buffalo nightclub after he got into an altercation with the bouncers. He was also charged with resisting arrest. The charges were eventually dropped and he was ordered to complete community service. 

2015: As a junior at Ole Miss, Kelly led the Rebels to 10-3 record and a victory in the 2016 Sugar Bowl over Oklahoma State. He ended the season with a 65.1 completion percentage, 31 touchdown passes and 13 interceptions. He also added 10 rushing touchdowns. He became the first Ole Miss QB to beat Alabama, Auburn and LSU in the same season. 

2016: Kelly returned to Ole Miss for his senior season, but in an early November game against Georgia Southern, he tore his ACL and lateral meniscus. He missed the remainder of the season, and the injuries kept him from participating at the NFL Scouting Combine. 

2017: Kelly was selected by the Broncos in the seventh round of the NFL Draft . Denver had the final pick in the draft that year, giving Kelly the title of Mr Irrelevant. Offseason wrist surgery kept him on the reserve/non-football injury list all season. 

August 2018: Kelly won a camp competition with Paxton Lynch to be the backup to Denver starter Case Keenum. He appeared in just one game during the season, coming in for a single QB kneel. 

Oct. 24, 2018: The Broncos released Kelly after he was arrested and charged with first-degree criminal trespassing after he allegedly entered a stranger’s residence. 

March 20, 2019: Kelly pleaded guilty to misdemeanor second-degree criminal trespassing. 

May 2019: The Colts signed Kelly, giving him another crack at the NFL. Later in the month, the NFL suspended him for two games for violating the league’s personal conduct policy. The suspension was for the trespassing charges in 2018. 

September-November 2019: Kelly was waived after being reinstated from his suspension and then signed to the Colts’ practice roster. He was promoted to the active roster on Nov. 9 but didn’t see any playing time. 

September 2020: Once again, Kelly was waived by the Colts and signed to the practice squad. He was released at the end of the month. 

Feb. 11, 2022: Kelly signed with the Argonauts after having not played the previous two seasons. He eventually earned the backup spot over Antonio Pipkin. 

Oct. 29, 2022: With the Argonauts having already clinched the Eastern Division, the team tabbed Kelly as their starter for the season finale against the Montreal Alouettes. In his first real game action since college, Kelly completed 23 of 25 passes for 264 yards, with two touchdowns and an interception. He also rushed six times for 35 yards and a score. Toronto lost 38-33. 

Nov. 20, 2022: Kelly entered the 109th Grey Cup in the fourth quarter for an injured McLeod Bethel-Thompson. On his second series, Kelly led the Argos on a touchdown drive to beat the Winnipeg Blue Bombers 24-23. He ended the game with four completions in six attempts for 43 yards and two carries for 21 yards. 





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