In this week’s “Conversation with Clayton,” I chatted via email with Cincinnati Bearcats football radio analyst Jim Kelly. Long before becoming one of the voices of Bearcats football on the air, he was one of the leading lights of Bearcats football on the gridiron.
Kelly led Cincinnati in receiving for three consecutive years during his college career (1973-1975), earning him induction into the Cincinnati Bearcats Athletics Hall of Fame in 2017. He is also a highly accomplished musician.
His father, Jim Kelly Sr., was also one of the greats in Cincinnati athletics, himself a school record-breaking receiver and longtime assistant athletic director.
In a wide-ranging discussion, Kelly and I talk about the Bearcats’ chances in this strangest of football seasons, his career as a musician, and his favorite places to eat in the Cincinnati area.
Clayton Trutor (CT): What aspect of your career are you the most proud of?
Jim Kelly (JK): As a player, I am most proud of the fact that I was the first, and only 1 of 3 in the history of UC to lead the team in receptions 3 straight years. And the other 2, Dominick Goodman and Shaq Washinton were fabulous receivers. I played on teams that primarily ran the ball and most of my catches were on 3rd down as well. As a broadcaster, I am proudest of my longevity. If there is football this fall, this will be my 30th season. And although there were some not so great years record wise along the way, it has been an absolute blast.
CT: Do you think Cincinnati can compete for a national championship in this strangest of college football seasons?
JK: It is so strange this year, and changing constantly. It is possible for the Bearcats to compete for a national championship in 2020. But what will the format be? Will the G5 get more representation? What’s going to happen to bowl games? Can’t have all 41 bowls these year so who makes the cut. But, yes they are very capable of being in the mix this season
CT: Looking around the AAC, who looks strong to you coming into the 2020 season.
JK: Clearly UCF is very strong. And playing them in the Bounce House will be tough. Fans or no fans. SMU on the road is a tough match up. Memphis has some terrific skilled players, and so does Houston. Fortunately, both of those are home games. Temple on the road always scares me.
CT: Compare the atmosphere of a Cincinnati football game during your playing career and a Cincinnati game in recent years.
JK: It has changed a lot. The entire stadium experience if so wonderful now and “The Ruckus” is so different than when I played. We did draw a few decent crowds for Miami, and also a ranked Temple team in 1974, but Nippert is such a weapon for the Football Bearcats, as is Fifth Third Area for the Basketball Bearcats. Nippert is one of a kind. Truly my happy place.
CT: What advice would you give to young people interested in a career in the sports media?
JK: Start at an early age. Call play by play at intramural basketball games in high school. Watch a game on TV and record yourself on your phone Just know the game, whatever your sport of choice. I am just a fan who is lucky enough to be able to talk about what I am seeing on the field
CT: How do you prepare for a broadcast?
JK: I do a good bit of reading about each opponent weekly. The good part about being a broadcaster for any team, is that you see that team every week. I get to know the Bearcats well as the season goes on. Yes, the stats change weekly, and there are injuries and other changes, but honestly, I could call the Bearcat personnel on the field without numbers on their jerseys. Its the other team when you need to study. And as the year goes on, you may have had the chance to see the opponent play on TV, one of their players emerges as a star.
CT: What are your favorite songs to play in concert?
JK: Wow.....Since I play acoustic music these days, that’s a tough one. I play a couple of Tom Petty songs, I really enjoy playing. I use a looping pedal that allows me to lay down the rhythm guitar track, and then play lead over the top. And it works well in “Mary Jane’s Last Dance” and “Runnin’ Down a Dream”
CT: What are the worst seats you’ve ever had at a sporting event?
JK: UC Nevada NCAA Tourney Game, Bridgestone Arena. Up high, behind the basket. Not good. For a lot of reasons, not good.
CT: Describe your greatest sports video game victory.
JK: I must admit I am not up on the latest video games. I do watch them and am blown away by the sophistication of them and the clarity of the graphics. I think my biggest victory was on Nintendo in Super Mario Brothers in 1984.....If anyone remembers that even
CT: What are your favorite places to eat in the Cincinnati area?
JK: So many good ones to choose from around Cincinnati. We are very lucky. I live in the Blue Ash area, and although I get all around town, I tend to hang out somewhat close to home. Mostly sports bars and some of the micro breweries. Also Silver Spring House has a fun atmosphere and good food. You can find me at Slatts Pub in Blue Ash at least once during the week. Like I said, too many good ones to mention and I enjoy them all.
Follow Jim Kelly on Twitter: @jimkelly7
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