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Slimmed Down Rob Kelley Keeping Fifth-String Mentality As Lead Running Back

Posted Jul 30, 2017

After taking over the starting job in his rookie season, Rob Kelley made some changes to his offseason habits, including a healthier diet that helped him lose weight.

After taking over the starting job in his rookie season, Rob Kelley made some changes to his offseason habits, including a healthier diet that helped him lose weight.

Like most players entering their second year in the NFL, Redskins running back Rob Kelley spent his offseason tinkering with some of his habits.

That primarily involved the way he ate. Kelley slimmed down about five pounds before training camp (he’s currently listed at 233 pounds), turning fat into muscle with a special focus on cutting out fried food. He consulted assistant strength and conditioning coach and team nutritionist Jake Sankal for dieting advice, learning to eat heathier without overeating, making his “Fat Rob” nickname more obsolete.

“Just tried to eat more clean, tried to cook a little more,” Kelley said. “[I had] been eating out at fast food places. Early on in OTAs I didn’t really lose a lot of weight, I gained a lot of muscle.”

It’s been just a couple days of training camp, but Kelley can already feel the difference. That’s also a testament to head strength and conditioning coach Chad Englehart, who Kelley worked with closely over the offseason developing a plan in Ashburn together.

“If you spend a year in the weight room here with Chad, you’re going to gain muscle and lose weight and I think a lot of these rookies will go through that,” head coach Jay Gruden said. “For the most part, most of them will come in and then they’ll gain muscle mass and lose weight. That’s the whole intent of being in a pro football organization. Rob is just one of the guys that are benefiting from that – the process of lifting weights and having a schedule.”

“It’s always to your benefit when you can move around and not get tired,” Kelley added. “Stay on the go, I think it’s always beneficial.”

The changes remain a vital part of the learning process for Kelley, who comes to Richmond, Va., as the team’s lead running back, quite a change from his spot on the depth chart last year as an undrafted rookie from Tulane.

Entering OTAs as essentially the fifth-string running back, Kelley made a strong impression throughout training camp and won the starting job halfway through the season. He collected 704 total yards on 168 carries and scored six touchdowns (he’s reflected that he left a lot of yards on the field because of his impatience following blocks) helping to cement his status as the lead back in 2017.

The experience, plus the reliability Kelley has fostered with coaches, has changed his attitude at camp for Year 2, making sure to hone the finer details of the position and without worrying about making big impressions to get on their radar.

“I think it’s just more of like working on subtle things; trying to improve your game instead of just like trying to make big plays every time,” Kelley said. “Just because you made a big play don’t mean it was the right play so I try to stick to the script and work on little small things that help me out over a long period of time then just making the big plays.”

Kelley also knows that nothing is guaranteed in the NFL, wisdom he accrued over the course of last year. Throughout his rookie season, he said he was “more happy than anything” about making the team. “Then I realized it’s a business, stuff changes, you’ve got to adapt, you can’t just stay the same, you either get better or worse, and you’ve got to err on the side of getting better every time.”

It’s given him a greater perspective about his place on the team right now, because as he knows, “it’s very easy to go back down to fifth string.” That mentality – knowing what it’s like to move so rapidly along the depth chart – has fueled the desire to adapt. He still has competition in rookie Samaje Perine as well as Matt Jones, Keith Marshall and Mack Brown, fighting to prove their worth on the team’s roster. But he believes he’s put himself in a better position to keep excelling in his job.

“Even if you’re not on a one year deal, you still feel like you’re on a one year deal, but things can change within a snap of a finger,” Kelley said. “Guys get traded after signing those contact extensions so you just got to go out there and prove yourself every day and as long as everybody keeps trying to prove themselves and get better, we’re going to be a better team.”

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