RENTON, Wash. — The candy dish on Maurice Kelly’s desk rests undisturbed.
Six giant leather chairs in his office sit unoccupied.
Kelly, the Seattle Seahawks’ senior director of player personnel, feels the effects of the NFL lockout more directly than most. The players’ lounge outside his office is silent these days. The work Kelly does in preparing players for life inside and outside football will have to wait.
“Right now, this would be a really busy time for me because as of May 15, our rookies would have been here,” Kelly said during a recent interview. “I would meet with them at least 3-4 times a week, start talking about all the things they are going to encounter as a rookie.”
Each spring and summer, NFL teams hand over piles of cash to men in their early 20s, many of whom possess zero real-world life experience. Society calls this a recipe for disaster. Teams hire people such as Kelly, a 38-year-old former Seahawks safety, to help even out the odds.
“My thing is to be able to minimize all the distractions off the field so they can focus when they get here,” Kelly said. “That entails helping them become a well-rounded individual, helping them get prepared for life after football, which is through player development, continuing education, financial education, job internships, those sorts of things.”
Kelly seeks to ensure that players know basics such as how to manage a paycheck. He connects players with credit-management specialists. He helps players understand how best to handle friends and family members, some with dollar signs in their eyes. Kelly attends practices and has a feel for what coaches want from players, putting him in position to offer football-related input as well.
The job is all about earning players’ trust and then giving them counsel without passing judgment or expecting anything in return. What’s spoken inside Kelly’s office walls must stay there, in other words.
“I get a chance to know them on a level that really no one else gets to know them, from Day 1,” Kelly said.
It’s tough not to take it personally when a player finds himself unprepared for life after football.
“Being under this umbrella we call the NFL, this is not reality,” Kelly said. “Reality strikes when you walk outside this building once you’ve been released from the team and you’re just kind of caught out there. It’s about helping these guys be successful. I would never turn my back on one of these players whether they have been here for one day or 10 years.”