Rookie running back Rob Kelley had quite a Sunday night against the Packers. On 24 carries he totaled 137 yards, his first 100-yard game since high school, and scored thrice – a feat that running backs Alfred Morris, Clinton Portis and Earnest Byner only achieved once in each of their impressive Redskins careers. He also became a fantasy darling for folks that took a flyer on the waiver wire and woke up to the possibility that he could be their solution for the rest of their season (but this is a more trivial matter).
Which is to say, Kelley had his biggest game on the biggest stage, a fortuitous feat that makes his humble beginnings as an undrafted free agent signing from Tulane all the more impressive.
It may be difficult to recall those times – when Rob Kelley was the backfield's starter and fellow rookie Keith Marshall hadn't been placed on injured reserve -- now that the Redskins have seemed to find their answer at running back for the remainder of the season.
So, let's take a look back at Kelley's improbable progression from OTAs to last Sunday night strictly through quotes to reflect on his journey and the opportunities he took advantage of to be in his current position.
OTAs: May 25
Kelley: "It was good, speed's a lot faster. You have to get your pre-snap reeds in a lot faster."
Minicamp: June 14
Head coach Jay Gruden: "He has done good. He is one of those guys that you really don't know a lot about, but, 'Who's number 22? Who is that? That's Kelley making another big play.' He has got great, low center of gravity when he runs the ball. I think he is going to be a tough guy to tackle when it's all said and done. He went to Tulane and did some good things and I think he has a chance."
Training Camp: Aug. 7**
Gruden: "You know, some guys I've seen in shorts, running backs like, 'Holy cow, this guy can't be tackled,' and then he gets into a game and he gets tackled and runs backwards the wrong way. So we'll see how it works out. But I really am excited to watch these guys run. Robert Kelley has been very impressive."
Training Camp: Aug. 8
Gruden: "Robert Kelley, not many people knew who he was, but people know who he is around here. He's doing a great job."
Preseason: Aug. 11, Week 1
Kelley: "After this game, I felt more confident, like knowing I can play with those guys out there and the level, moving up from college to the NFL and the hitting isn't harder but there are better players. I feel more confident, just being able to make plays with NFL guys, so I feel better about myself."
Niles Paul: "I love 22 [Robert Kelley], the running back. I'm sorry I don't remember, I'm terrible with names. I mean just seeing them out there playing relentless and trying to make a team, I'm proud of those guys and the way they stepped up."
Training Camp: Aug. 14
Gruden: "It's not going to only be Matt Jones in the backfield. Chris Thompson will get a fair share and then whoever emerges as the No. 2 back, either Keith Marshall or the other guys here – Rob [Robert Kelley] – we'll see what happens."
Training Camp: Aug. 17
Gruden: "'Fat Rob,' that's what is on his backpack. He did a nice job… That's his nickname in college if you didn't know that – 'Fat Rob' Kelley. But anyway, he was impressive. He's been impressive since we got him. He's got great vision. He's built low to the ground and he really runs hard and that showed up against Atlanta and I'd like to see him in an expanded role, see how he does."
Training Camp: Aug. 22
Kelley: "At one point, me and Matt Jones had a [bet] on who could have the most explosive runs at practice and stuff like that. We try to make each other better in a real, friendly way."
Gruden: "These guys have shown a lot of promise in training camp. We want to see them in game situations against a good Buffalo team and it will be a good test for them. Good for everybody."
Training Camp: Aug. 24**
Sean McVay: "I think Kelley's shown a lot of maturity for a young back. He's done a nice job in protection. Look at last week when we get internal pressure against the Jets last week and Kelley came up, stuck his face on somebody and gave Colt [McCoy] an opportunity to set his feet. And then I think he's a good physical runner that squares runs off and does a nice job finishing falling forward."
Preseason: Aug. 27, Week 3
Kelley: "I think I've played decent. I think you've seen I've steadily progressed. One percent better. I think I got better."
Preseason: Aug. 30
Gruden: "We didn't know a whole lot about him. He was a free agent from Tulane, didn't have a lot of yards as a halfback and fullback at Tulane...the big thing with him is how quickly he picked up the protections. That's not easy for a back. There is so much, they have to listen to the quarterback and the center and we change them at the line often and he's got to be on top of his game and he's been that."
Preseason: Aug. 31, Week 4
Kelley: "I think I'll sweat it out till [roster cuts] happen. You can never be sure. At the end of the day, it's still a business, so you never know what's going on upstairs. But, I think I did pretty well, but I'm not going to run with it until it happens … I think I left everything I had on the field today."
Preseason: Sept. 5
Gruden: "We felt really good about Robert…That was just our decision. We feel good that the three backs that we have right now are going to be very good and with Mack Brown waiting in the wings, we have four excellent ones in-house."
Preseason: Sept. 7
Kelley: "I'm not going to say when I first got here I thought I could play with these guys, but as camp went on I felt like I could play with them."
Gruden: "Monday Night Football's going to be a great challenge for a rookie free agent out of Tulane. We feel like the mentality that he has and how far he's come along from OTAs to training camp, we feel like he's ready. We wouldn't put him in this position if we didn't."
Regular season: Sept. 14, Week 1
Matt Jones: "I try to do my best for Robert Kelley and kind of just tell him ins and outs of how I do stuff, how I live. He asks me every day about questions off the field, just with housing, cars and stuff like that, when should I do stuff like this. I try to give him my best advice and try be a big brother to him and I love him to death and just glad he's around."
Regular season: Oct. 10, Week 6**
Gruden: "I think you'll see more of Robert. I think Robert shows that he's deserving of some carries. You know, we like Matt Jones, but I think there's a good combination there where the both of them can get the ball. And we'll have to monitor that, and Randy Jordan's going to look at that. We're going to, you know, depending on how many carries Matt gets, Robert obviously we want to mix him in there to keep Matt fresh and keep Robert fresh and get a different look from time to time. Robert had a couple of good hits, he really did. So I think he deserves a couple more shots."
Regular season: Oct. 12, Week 6
Kelley: "I think you learn a lot, like the first week we played Pittsburgh and I watched DeAngelo Williams run, how patiently he runs and then we come back and watch Isaiah (Crowell) run the ball. I think you learn how those guys be patient and hit the hole and be decisive. So when I get in there I try to imitate their game a little and see if it works for me. Sometimes it works and sometimes it don't.
"My senior year I came in a little chubby. My running back coach started calling me Fat Rob. I just embrace it. It was nobody but my fault getting that big, so when you start calling me a name everybody thought it was funny, so I just let them do it."
Cousins: "He's, I think, a talented running back. He seems to always make productive runs and rarely has negative runs. I think he's stepped up well each time he's been in there. As a rookie, you kind of take big steps forward each time you get out there because it's such a new challenge. I have a lot of confidence in him and he continues to seem more and more comfortable each week."
Regular Season: Oct. 16, Week 7
Kelley: "I like that feeling that we can go in there and we can build off each other. When Matt Jones has a good run, I gotta go get me one. It feels good, it's like a friendly competition. Obviously Matt Jones is the man, I'm behind him, but I just keep pushing him every time. Even if I'm not on the field I'm watching stuff and trying to help him get back to the sideline, stuff like that."
Jamison Crowder: "Today was kind of, more so his, 'Hello, world, I'm here.' If you look at it, he did it when he came to OTAs. He had really good runs. He did it in camp down in Richmond and obviously he had really good games and really good runs in the preseason. Today, I'm happy he got the opportunity and he went out there and took advantage of it."
Regular Season: Oct. 23, Week 8
Kelley: [Scoring his first touchdown] "It felt pretty good. It's something you dream about as a kid, and it actually happened for me this time."
Regular season: Oct. 24, Week 9
Gruden: "Obviously Rob is doing a nice job with the limited time that he gets. Maybe it's just expand Rob's role a little bit, expand Chris' role a little bit. But you get all three of those guys active and just continue to stress the importance of ball security – that's not just the running backs, that's everybody."
Regular Season: Oct. 31, Week 9 [after first career NFL Start vs. Bengals]
Gruden: "Robert Kelley I thought ran hard. He ran physical and made some nice runs. I think he pre-determined a couple cuts here and there, maybe didn't let the play develop a little bit like we would like, but I think for the most part I was happy the way he ran. He ran physical and he ran hard. I think he had 21 carries for 85 yards, or something like that, 87 yards. That's a pretty darn good first day for the guy as far as being a lead-down back."
Regular Season: Nov. 9, Week 10
Kelley: "Coming in undrafted, it's always something you think about and bring yourself back down to Earth and not try to get too far ahead of yourself. I'm happy with how far I've come."
Regular Season: Nov. 10, Week 10**
McVay: "Last week or a couple weeks ago against Cincinnati was really his first time that he got a bunch of carries and I think you can see he's a strong, downhill runner, does a great job when he puts his foot in the ground leveling runs off and finishing falling forward. He's really tough. So, he's a mature young back, too. You can see he's just kind of got a nice way about himself where nothing is too big for him and we expect to see him just improve as the season goes along."
Regular Season: Nov. 13, Week 10
Kelley: "I'm always surprised because it's something that when you're a child you dream about and this is actually happening. I say that all the time, but for me it's real, I go out there all the time and just look around like I dreamed about this as a kid and it happened. So I'm always surprised, I always try to take advantage and don't just go out there and get big-headed and stuff like that."
Vernon Davis: "Rob Kelley, he's a tremendous asset. He's so talented. I remember when he first arrived in training camp, I saw him making cuts, and was like 'wow, this guy has great hips, great feet.' He's going to be a stud. And he is; he is a stud. I'm happy to play alongside Rob Kelley. Not only is he a great player, he's a good person. It's always to have great personalities and good character in the team. We have that here at the Washington Redskins."
Regular season: Nov. 20, Week 11
Brandon Scherff: "He's the full package. He can pass block, he can jump cut, and he's quick. I told him if he were a little quicker, like me, he would've scored on that long touchdown. I was just kidding, but we love blocking for him."
Kelley:* *"Some people say I know you have a chip on your shoulder, but it ain't even about all that. It's about taking advantage of opportunities and showing people you belong. I don't have any chip on my shoulder. I don't think I should have been drafted, I don't think I should have had none of that. What I have is what I earned, and that's what I'm working hard on is to keep earning more."
Gruden:* *"He's a physical runner and obviously his ball security has been outstanding, knock-on-wood. There's some clean shots that they had on him but he was able to hold onto the ball and get tough yards. And then he's just patient and then he hit the big one there at the end of the game and put the game out of reach. So we couldn't be more pleased with Robert."