Joe Kelly

Trust Spotlights

Joe Kelly


Joe Kelly is a former linebacker who spent eleven years in the NFL. A passionate community leader, Kelly shared his story to help former players understand the value of their benefits and find life after football.

Born and raised in South Central, California, Joe Kelly’s love to compete athletically helped him start playing football. He played basketball, baseball, and ran track growing up but decided to focus primarily on baseball and football in high school.

Kelly decided to focus solely on football after receiving a scholarship from the University of Washington. He switched from playing running back to linebacker and enjoyed a successful college career before getting drafted in the first round of the 1986 NFL Draft by the Cincinnati Bengals.

Kelly spent eleven years in the NFL, suiting up for the Bengals, New York Jets, Los Angeles Raiders, Los Angeles Rams, Green Bay Packers, and the Philadelphia Eagles. He loved his playing days and credited the relationships he built as a player for allowing him to enjoy a life-changing experience.

Once his playing career ended, Kelly focused on becoming a business owner. He knew a friend who owned group homes and his father had a youth organization, so Kelly spent time mentoring kids before staying in Los Angeles to shadow and eventually start his own group home.

We've taken in well over 2000 kids… boys and girls that have suffered trauma, abuse, sexual trafficking… kids that have been affected by the opioid crisis, kids with a mental health diagnosis, autism, etc.… We have five residential setting facilities that help, at-risk youth, from ages 9 to 21, and it's a tough population, but it's so rewarding. I've been blessed to walk down the aisle maybe four times for former residents, stepping in as their father when getting married… [has been] an honor

Kelly mentioned how many former residents nowadays call him to check in and let him know how they’re doing. He stated that he did not start the business to receive any accolades but that comes with the blessings for helping at-risk youth.

The satisfaction that you can get when you see kids that come from awful situations and trauma and they're out here surviving, they're out here being self-sufficient, they're out here raising families and staying out of trouble… you cannot put a price on that

One skill that Kelly transferred from the gridiron to the business world is being a good teammate. He mentioned having a brotherhood-like bond that’s based on teamwork and a sense of cohesion, is key to operating a successful business.

Kelly advises former players to find something they are passionate about after retiring instead of focusing on making a lot of money because you can’t put your all into something that you don’t love. He mentioned how the career transition from the NFL should start whilst a player is still in the league so that there’s ample time to make connections. Kelly also advised players to take advantage of services provided by the NFLPA and The Trust.

We didn't have The Trust, we didn't have someone reaching out to tell you if you're injured, you know you have this… you can go here… here are some business opportunities… we didn't have that, and progressively it's gotten better. Guys got The Trust so nowadays they have a plethora of stuff they have access to

Kelly heard about The Trust thanks to a teammate and used it to complete his Brain & Body assessment. He’s thankful to stay connected and says being able to give back has been priceless. He now hopes to help former players that are interested in working with children.

It’s a way for us to help each other, even if it's just information through The Trust. So, it's awesome, I applaud you guys for what you do and hopefully, everybody can do their part just so they can take advantage of it

Kelly said The Trust has made him proud to be an NFL Alumni, calling it “a breath of fresh air”. He stated being able to talk with other former players and share information with them has been “invaluable”.

Kelly described his life journey in one sentence: “highly blessed and highly favored”. He’s thankful for the services that are provided to former players and encourages guys to go check them out.

Go find your passion and utilize it. Find something that you love, and you'll see that it's not a job

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