BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Western New York native Chad Kelly came off the bench to lead the Toronto Argonauts on the winning drive to the 109th Grey Cup championship.
Kelly, who won the Connolly Cup playing for St. Joe’s and is the nephew of Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly, completed 4-of-6 passes for 43 yards in relief. Kelly ran for another 21 yards, his second scramble setting up the go-ahead touchdown from A.J. Ouelette in the 24-23 victory on Saturday night in Regina, Saskatchewan.
“It felt amazing,” Kelly told reporters after the game. “I couldn’t believe that I had the chance right then and there to go and prove myself down six.”
Wearing his uncle’s No. 12 jersey, Kelly entered the Grey Cup championship game in the fourth quarter after starting quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson injured his thumb.
Kelly “had ice in his veins,” Bethel-Thompson told 3 Down Nation during the on-field championship celebration.
Kelly signed with the Argonauts in February after being acquired as a negotiation list player from the Edmonton Elks last October. Kelly said in preseason that he wanted to emulate Doug Flutie’s CFL success and be the “face of the league.”
Making his CFL starting debut last month, Kelly completed 23-of-35 passes for 264 yards, two touchdowns and one interception, while rushing for 35 yards and a touchdown. It was the first start for the 28-year-old Kelly since he was a senior at Ole Miss in 2016.
In beating the two-time defending champion and favored Winnipeg Blue Bombers, the Argonauts claimed their 18th Grey Cup and first since 2017.
Also winning a championship in his first CFL season was offensive lineman Ryan Hunter, an Ontario native who attended Canisius High School. The 2012 Player of the Year in WNY spent four NFL seasons with the Chiefs and Chargers, and was with the Chiefs during their 2019 Super Bowl season. A news outlet in Hunter’s hometown of North Bay, Ontario reported that he is one of just a dozen players to win both a Super Bowl and a Grey Cup.
Orchard Park graduate Ben Holmes was the Argonauts third-string quarterback this season.
Kelly, who began his college career at Clemson and also played for Eastern Mississippi Community College, had 6,800 yards passing, 841 yards rushing and 65 total touchdowns in 22 starts for the Rebels. At the end of his junior season, Kelly became the first Ole Miss player to be MVP of the Sugar Bowl since Archie Manning in 1970.
Kelly was drafted by the Denver Broncos with the final pick in 2017. He was the No. 2 quarterback in 2018 behind Case Keenum, the current Buffalo Bills backup, and made his lone NFL appearance in the sixth game of the season with a kneeldown before halftime. Kelly was released the next week by the Broncos, and later pleaded guilty to misdemeanor criminal trespassing, following his arrest after leaving a Halloween party hosted by current Bills defender Von Miller.
The following year, Kelly joined the Indianapolis Colts, coached by Frank Reich, his uncle’s former backup in Buffalo, and Kelly played in a preseason game in Orchard Park against the Bills before being signed to the Colts practice squad. He was promoted to the active roster that November, but did not appear in a game. He spent a month of the 2020 season on the Colts practice squad.
Holmes, who had a record-setting career playing quarterback for Nassau Community College and NCAA Division II Tarleton State, signed with the Argonauts in August. He spent last training camp with the Montreal Alouettes, and some time earlier this season with Edmonton, but has not yet appeared in a CFL game.
The Orchard Park native was the fourth overall pick in the USFL draft by the New Jersey Generals, but got released in training camp before breaking his foot. Holmes had almost 6,000 yards passing, 560 yards rushing, and 62 total touchdowns in 25 games for the Arizona Rattlers of the Indoor Football League in 2021.