Two of a kind: Brothers Marcus, Matt Kelly guard Raptors' blind side
Tom Kelly said raising a pair of offensive linemen is just like what you'd expect it to be.
"We go through a lot of couches and a lot of food," he said.
Tom is the father of Marcus and Matt Kelly - two brothers who make up the left side of the offensive line for East Ridge.
Marcus Kelly is a senior captain for the Raptors. He's 6 feet tall and 240 pounds and has started at left guard for three years. Matt Kelly is a 6-foot-tall 260-pound sophomore. He's a first-year starter at left tackle - right next to his brother.
Off the field, the Kelly brothers watch a lot of football, lift weights together and try to get on each other's nerves. But, on the field, it's all business.
"I don't treat him different because he's my brother," Marcus Kelly said. "If he does something wrong, I'm going to tell him. I'll tell that to anyone - and I want them to tell me too. It makes no difference."
Marcus said the two of them butt heads all the time in practice.
"I'll tell him what to do in a play and he'll say 'I don't do that' and I'll say 'Yeah you do,'" he said. "We'll argue with each other, then we'll ask our coach who is right and it's usually me.
But, it's just a brother thing. He's bigger than me, so I can't really call him 'little Matt'. We're the same height, but he outweighs me by a lot. But, I can still take him."
Together, the Kelly's play an important role in protecting the quarterback's blind side and make holes for the Raptors' running backs - they also provide a lot of joy for the family on Friday nights.
"It's great," Tom Kelly said. "No. 1, we only have to go to one game a week. But, it's a proud moment for us to see them out there together. It's something we hoped for. We're all really happy about it."
Additionally, Marcus and Matt have a younger brother, T.J., who is in sixth grade. He plays football, too, but is a smaller, faster and more athletic version of his older brothers. He plays quarterback and running back.
Tom says he does all the cooking for his football family - just not the baking, which he leaves to his wife Amy.
"We eat a lot of steak, a lot of chicken and a lot of potatoes - that's all Matt eats is steak, potatoes and corn," Tom said.
Tom Kelly played football in college and high school. He said there wasn't really a choice when the kids began playing football.
"My philosophy, when they started playing sports, was that they had to play something I could coach, so I could be involved," he said. "Anything they played I had to be able to coach. So, no hockey - I can't skate and neither can they."
Matt said he started playing football in first grade and that he's been an offensive tackle ever since third grade.
"I always wanted to play football, because I watched Marcus play all the time," Matt said. "When we got into high school, he was a starter in 10th grade, so it was my goal to start in 10th grade too. I really worked hard to get it. This is the first time we've been right next to each other, though. Sometimes it's good and sometimes it's not. We are brothers and sometimes we fight."
This year, East Ridge's offensive line is built of two seniors and three sophomores - Marcus and Matt Kelly, sophomore J.C. Hassenauer is at center, senior Nate Brenner is at right guard and sophomore Keith Gordon is the right tackle.
Marcus joked that it's a pain teaching the young kids their roles on the offensive line.
"I think it's a kind of a hassle, but it's also rewarding," Marcus said. "It's a hassle, because I'm a three-year starter and it's their first time in the offense, so they don't know what they're doing. Sometimes it's like, 'How do you not know this?' But, then I remember what it was like when I started, too."
Prior to being East Ridge's head coach, Mike Pendino spent 15 years as a collegiate assistant coach, including six with the University of Minnesota. At the high school level, he was the head coach at the Academy of Holy Angels in Richfield, where the Stars advanced to two state tournaments and won a pair of Missota Conference championships with the likes of future National Football League players Larry Fitzgerald, Jr. and John Stocco. He's seen a lot of football players in his time, but has high praise for the Kelly's.
"Marcus Kelly is probably the best offensive lineman I've coached in high school," Pendino said. "If he's 6'5" and 270 pounds, he's playing anywhere he wants to in the country. He's athletic, he's smart and, technically, he's as sound as can be. He's just not as big some of them."
He said Matt is a good athlete in his own right, but not quite on Marcus' level.
"But Matt's 260 pounds," Pendino said. "He does a lot of good things for a sophomore. Matt's done a great job for us. He's going to be an exceptional player. It's nice to know we're going to have him for a couple more years."
Pendino said he's witnessed the Kelly brothers having a good time together and that Matt will listen to Marcus, because he knows what everyone on the offensive line should be doing.
"We've always worked on football together and played football together around the house," Matt Kelly said. "I usually know what he's going to do. Because he's the senior I ask him questions. He's been here three years and knows the offense. I know what I'm supposed to do, but he knows what everyone is supposed to be doing. If I ever need help I ask him."
Both of the brothers are trying not to think about next year, when Marcus will move on to college - he's looking at West Point - and Matt will anchor the offensive line.
"It's going to be more difficult, but I'll have more experience, too," Matt said. "It'll be tough because we'll have to replace him and he's our captain and I'm going to help out the new left guard. It'll be different. I've really liked having Marcus there."