Life after Football: Reggie Kelly

The physical aspects, the money, recognition and brights lights that came along with being an NFL tight end for the Cincinnati Bengals and Atlanta Falcons, were luxuries that Reggie Kelly enjoyed during his time in the league, but he knew that it was not going to last forever. For some athletes, thinking about life after their playing career could be frightening but to him, after completed a 12-year career (1999-2011), it was a chance to expand his horizons and take on a new challenge. At the age of 34 years old, which is pretty young, Kelly retired from the game of football but had a vision of becoming a successful entrepreneur running a food line called KYVAN® Foods, which is to sell specialty food products on the retail and foodservice level. Kelly did not want to be looked as just a retired football player, but rather a man with a plan and strong aspirations. He wanted to show that athletes have other talents and dreams, besides the sport in which they play. “Yes, because I never wanted to be considered just an average jock, I wanted to use all my God-given talents to be a trailblazer,” Kelly said. Kelly’s jumpstart for getting his business going, resonated from hosting football camps and giving back to his hometown in Aberdeen, Mississippi. “KYVAN® was started by giving back in my hometown of Aberdeen, MS from hosting a football camp. After the camp in true Mississippi style, we cooked for our volunteers with our family recipes and they raved about how good the food was and it was suggested we should take those products to market and now before and now we have KYVAN® Foods.” KYVAN® Foods, the name was known to be inspired by his two kids named Kyla and Kavan, in 2005 and was later hitting stores with its product 3 years later. “Idea came to mind in 2005 and products hit the 1st store in 2008, Sunflowers in Columbus, MS and hit major retailer...Walmart in 2011,” he said. “KYVAN® is a unique name, but it is simply a combination of my two kids Kyla and Kavan. In addition to Walmart and its online catalog, the products are now being sold at Kroger, on Amazon, his official website, and various specialty stores. It was a process that took some time and business planning but nonetheless, came to fruition because of Reggie’s vision and ambition. Reggie also has some new products coming out such as, KYVAN Sweet Potato BBQ Sauce, KYVAN Cherry BBQ Sauce, KYVAN Honey Apple BBQ Sauce and all natural wing sauces that will be opening up in more than one location. During that time, Reggie also took his talents to the authoring realm and completed a book called, “Prepared: Body, Mind, and Spirit.” On the front cover, it says, “Using The Gridirons Boundaries To Reach Your Limitless Potential.” It seems as though, Reggie wants people, and not just athletes to find what it is, but others to also discover success in life like he did during his playing days, and post-retirement. What advice would he give to other athletes starting their new careers after playing professional sports?

“Pay attention to the little details and do the little things right and the big things will follow.”

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