THE REFLECTOR: Former MSU tight end plays in NFL, starts own food line

From Bulldog football player to NFL tight end to chef extraordinare for Kyvan food line, this is the journey of former Mississippi State student-athlete Reggie Kelly.

The Aberdeen, Miss., native was a quarterback when he came to MSU in 1995 but quickly became a tight end for the Dogs. He was named to the SEC Academic Honor Roll three years in a row and finished his senior season with 22 starts, 29 catches and a total of 474 yards for his career.

Kelly said his favorite memory from his time at State was in 1996 on a Thursday night on ESPN when the Dogs shocked the world and upset Alabama. The fans rushed the field and tore down the goalposts.

Ricky Black, one of Kelly’s coaches at MSU, said he was very coachable and understood the game of football.

“Reggie’s always been a high character and high moral type guy, and he was quite a leader when he was on the football team at MSU,” Black said. “You look at how long he’s been in the NFL, and he’s really maintained an excellent high level of play, which is a tribute to how hard he’s worked to get where he is.”

Kelly married his high school sweetheart Sheila in 1999, the same year he was picked in the second round of the NFL draft by the Atlanta Falcons. The tight end played in every game his rookie season and made a name for himself in the Falcons’ organization.

In 2003, Kelly signed with the Cincinnati Bengals. “The Rev,” as he was called by his teammates, led his team on and off the field in his eight seasons in Cincinnati. He wrote a book titled “Prepared,” which discusses the lessons that come from preparing the body, mind and spirit.

Kelly returned to the Falcons in 2011 and is currently a free agent waiting to hear from his agent. However, he said he is content to move on to the next phase of his life, the food business.

“I already have plans in motion in case I don’t get picked up this year,” Kelly said. “My 13 years in the NFL have been a blessing, but if that door shuts, it’s time for the next door to be opened, and I think that will include full-time business.”

The Kelly’s started Kyvan from the ground up. Reggie coaches football camps in his hometown of Aberdeen and invites some of his NFL teammates and other football stars to help out. After the camps, Reggie and Sheila feed everyone. They knew the people there loved the southern type food, so they decided to come up with a salsa they could sell to everyone.

And that is exactly what they did. They took family recipes and created Kyvan salsa. Sheila said the salsa is unique and tasteful and also said she plays a secondary role in the business.

“I’m pretty much the behind-the-scenes type person. Reggie is in the forefront, but when he starts football and goes away, I step in and take care of things,” Sheila said. “I play more of a reserved role. I do the marketing, tasting and cooking with it behind the scenes.”

The name Kyvan came from combining their children’s names- Kyla and Kavan. The Kellys hope to pass down the business to their children.

The salsa is sold at Walmart in Starkville, West Point and Columbus and at the Piggy Wiggly in Starkville. Along with the salsa, Kyvan came out with a barbeque sauce Sept. 1, just in time for tailgating.

For Reggie, balancing an NFL career, a food business and a family takes a lot of discipline, but Sheila said he has always been able to control football and knows his role.

“He’s been a person who always has a balance, and that’s where I come in, too. I’m his helpmate, and I help him balance how we need to do things with the business or with the kids,” Sheila said. “When football is over in the offseason, we set aside time that we devote just to the food line and we devote to the kids, and we find time for ourselves. We each can hold each other accountable.”

This balance has allowed the Kellys to spend plenty of time perfecting their salsa. Reggie said his products are very unique and full of quality and flavor.

“I call it my salsa with soul. The reason why is because when we cook, we cook in such a way as it makes you feel loved and touches your soul, so all of my products will touch your soul,” Kelly said. “Anybody interested in buying our products, trust me, you won’t be disappointed.”

Reggie also said he is excited for another great year of Bulldog football and that he always speaks highly of his Dogs when he is in the NFL.

To keep up with Reggie and the Kyvan food business, follow him on Twitter, reggiekelly82, joinhis Facebook page, Reggie Kelly’s Fan Club, or visit his website, KYVAN82.

 

This article first appeared on and was written by The Reflector.