The Aberdeen native, who played football at Mississippi State University before turning pro and playing for the Atlanta Falcons and the Cincinnati Bengals, has begun his own line of food products, including salsas, seasonings and sauces.
“Our family has always cooked and always enjoyed cooking,” said the 35-year-old tight end, who is currently a free agent. “I really didn’t know how good our cooking was until my wife and I threw a football camp a couple of years back in Aberdeen for kids who had achieved academic excellence. People from all over the country came to volunteer, including NFL players, to help us out. Afterward, we cooked for the volunteers and people raved about the food. A light bulb went off and we said, ‘If people like these down-home Southern flavors, let’s give it to them.’”
Kelly and his wife, Sheila, who was his high school sweetheart, decided to name their line KYVAN after their two children, Kyla and Kavan.
“You can rest assured that since our kids’ names are on the labels, it’s a quality product and, just like our kids, it’s unique,” he said.
Kelly began working on his salsas in 2005 and other products have evolved over the years. His barbecue sauce will be in stores in September and it will be followed by seasonings and rubs, breadings, desserts and some all-natural products.
“I think this is a really great industry to get into,” he said. “It’s tough to get into it and it’s tough to maintain it, but when you have the proper resources and the right products, you can do it.”
The Kelly family currently lives in Atlanta although they do have a house in Northeast Mississippi where they stay when they come home for one of their many visits.
“Cooking is kind of like a legacy from grandparents to parents to kids,” Kelly said. “We always make some type of excuse to get together to cook. We take different bits and pieces from family members and put them together in one recipe. We call those our masterpieces.”
Kelly said during the off-season when his playing schedule isn’t quite as full, he likes to cook at home to take a load off Sheila.
“I use my wife as a test subject,” he said. “Some things she likes and some she doesn’t. Sometimes, I’ll go to a restaurant and taste a meal and if I don’t particularly like it, I think, ‘How can I go home and improve this meal?’ That’s normally how it works. I visualize it until that dream can become a reality.”
Do you know a good cook? Send your nominations to Ginna Parsons, Cook of the Week, P.O. Box 909, Tupelo, MS 38802. Or you can fax them to (662) 842-2233 or email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.