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One Vol to Another: Alvin Kamara Motivates RB John Kelly


INDIANAPOLIS – Former University of Tennessee running back John Kelly didn't have to look far for inspiration – and motivation -- heading into the NFL Combine.

It came from the other end of the phone line on Thursday – the voice of Alvin Kamara, another former Vol running back who was named the NFL's Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2017.

Kelly and Kamara were teammates with the Vols.


"I just got through talking to him a few hours ago," Kelly said on Thursday from the combine. "(His advice) has definitely helped me out a lot. It has been a nice little boost. He just keeps telling me to make sure I be myself and go out there and compete and take advantage of the opportunity. We have been doing it, so it is nothing new."

In his rookie season with the New Orleans Saints, Kamara won the AP Offensive Rookie of the Year after rushing for 728 yards and eight touchdowns, and catching 81 passes for 826 yards and five more scores. Kamara made it to the Pro Bowl.

Drafted in the third round (67th overall) out of Tennessee, Kamara was the fifth running back taken in the 2017 NFL Draft – behind Leonard Fournette, Christian McCaffrey, Dalvin Cook, and Joe Mixon.

Kelly likely won't go as early as Kamara did last year. NFL Network's Mike Mayock has a mid-round grade on Kelly, who flashed moments of greatness last season.

"If you put the Florida tape on, you go, 'Wow,'" Mayock said of Kelly, who ran for 141 yards and racked up 237 all-purpose yards against the Gators last season. "That was a good football game. You see contact balance, a burst and acceleration. His last three games, I don't know if it was him, his offensive line, or a combination, but they just looked different.

"Best case, third round, but I don't really think that's happening. I think he's, best case, fourth round. Realistically, fourth- or fifth-round running back. I think if he runs well and catches the ball well at his pro day, that could really help him."

Kelly ran for 778 yards and nine touchdowns in 2017, on 189 carries, and he racked up 1,077 all-purpose yards because of his ability passing catches out of the backfield.

In three seasons with the Vols, Kelly rushed for 1,573 yards and 15 touchdowns on 327 attempts.

"Great feet, great pass-catching ability, and just being myself," Kelly said when asked what he wants to show NFL teams. "I really just like meeting with new people. I feel like I want to put a voice to the face. Everybody has been watching the film and everything, but once I get in the room with them I want to show I know some football. I feel like that is huge for me."

Kelly listed his competitiveness, and being able to finish runs as his strengths.

Kelly said having a former teammate like Kamara give him advice this week should help. Kelly said he's met with all 32 NFL teams.

"He just asked me how everything has been going and he was cracking some jokes about the whole medical thing we just got done going through, because that was crazy," Kelly said of Kamara. "He has just been making sure I stay focused and hydrated and get some rest while I am here.

"I told him it has been crazy. I wasn't expecting it to be the way it is. I am excited to be here it is a blessing that I am here."

Kelly said he has good memories from his days with the Vols.

He'd love to continue his career in the state of Tennessee.

"It would be nice," Kelly said with a smile. "I know Vol Nation has shown me a lot of love, and I have a lot of love for Vol Nation, too. They are going to be out there. Those fans in Tennessee, they're rowdy."

Titans GM Jon Robinson and new head coach Mike Vrabel make media rounds at the 2018 NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. (Photos: Gary Glenn)

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