Nobody became a starter under more pressure than the Philadelphia born LeRoy Kelly for the Cleveland Browns. All he had to do was replace Jim Brown, whom many still regard today as the greatest running back of all time. In his first two years, 1964 to 1965, Kelly rarely carried the ball. Nevertheless, he was a punt returner scoring three touchdowns. He showed promise but the real test came in 1966. For eight years, Kelly was one of the NFL’s great running backs. Jim Brown he wasn’t but Kelly was the best at his position during his starting years . The statistics speak for themselves:
Ball Carries-had 200 or more carries six times leading the league with 235 in 1967 and 248 in 1968;
Yards Rushing-had over 1,000 yards rushing three times; rushed for 1,141 yards in 1966 and led the league with 1,205 yards in 1967 and 1,239 yards in 1968;
Touchdowns Rushing-led the NFL three times with 15 in 1966, 11 in 1967; and 16 in 1968;
Yards Per Rush-led the league with 5.5 in 1966 and 5.1 in 1967;
LeRoy Kelly also was a good pass catcher. In his career, Kelly caught 190 passes for 2,281 yards and 13 touchdowns. He was a three time All Pro and made the Pro Bowl six times. After three tries, Kelly finally won a seat in the NFL Hall Of Fame in 1994.
Post Season Activity
1967 Eastern Conference Playoff-Cleveland Browns at Dallas Cowboys
Kelly carried 15 times for 96 yards. He also caught four passes for 39 yards. How can a player excel when his team loses 52 to 14?
1968 Eastern Conference Playoff-Dallas Cowboys at Cleveland Browns
During the season, Dallas at home defeated the Browns 28 to 7. Cleveland was 10-4 to Dallas’ 12-2. It would be different this time. Kelly caught a 46 yard touchdown pass from Bill Nelson to tie the score at 10 before halftime. Kelly carried 20 times for 86 yards. Cleveland won 31 to 20. Forget the title game where Colts shout out the Browns, at Cleveland 34 to 0.
Browns quarterback Bill Nelson passed the Cowboys dizzy. During the season at home 42 to 10; in the playoffs in Dallas 38 to 14. Kelly was a non factor other than his threat making things easier for Nelson. Minnesota defeated Cleveland in the NFL title game 27 to 7.