Former NFL tight end Reggie Kelly spent 13 seasons with the Atlanta Falcons and the Cincinnati Bengals. He began his collegiate career at Mississippi State where he was First- team ALL-SEC in 1998 and graduated with a degree in industrial technology. We caught up with Reggie and he gave us insight into his life during and after football.?

What is your current career?

I’m currently the founder and owner of KYVAN Foods. We specialize in innovative and, in most cases, never before seen products, with flavor combinations that are unique to the market. We’re suppliers to grocery stores such as Publix, Kroger, and other food service distributers.

How would you describe your experience leaving the game?

I had a smooth transition from the gridiron to the cast-iron. Once I retired the transition from being an athlete to and entrepreneur was quite easy since I had already established myself as an entrepreneur. 

What are you most proud of during your time as a player rep?

I would have to say in 2011, the CBA negotiations during the NFL Lockout was something that I hold monumental and humbled to be a part of. I think that we stuck together as Union Members. We weren’t divided and used great communication. We also conveyed some great information to current teammates. In my opinion we negotiated a great deal for former, current, and future players. For me, I think that that was a happy and monumental moment as a player rep. We had to text message and call to make sure all our teammates were up to speed since majority of them couldn’t attend the meetings. We had to be very strategic and make sure there was no loss of communication. We had to provide a united front and I believe we did that. I was so grateful that the guys stuck together and ultimately got the job done. 

How has being a player rep impacted you personally or professionally?

When I was a rep it was important for me to understand the CBA, so I could relay to my teammates their benefits and rights. Rights that could help them in their post-NFL life, which in my opinion is a big deal. I had a coach that told me a long time ago, “The will to prepare to win must be greater than the will to win itself”. Just being a part of the union has helped me professionally in being prepared for life after football. It prepared me for success in my post career in the food industry. It also prepared me to win in this industry. Playing in athletics is very competitive. You must strategize and make sure that you put a great product out on the field. It’s no different for me being in my business. I have to be very competitive and put a great product out there for consumers that keeps them coming back for more. The PA has helped me to make sure that I do those little things right and make sure that I’m very strategic in my approach. By doing that it has helped me both personally and professionally. 

What advice would you give yourself looking back? 

It’s important to always establish great relationships with where you’re at in life. Because you can use those relationships as you transition to the next levels of life. Those relationships can help fuel your passions. We need people and relationships to help us do that. Nobody has gotten to where they’re at in life, especially successful people, without having a core group of people around them. We have to have relationships to help propel us to achieve the passions and dreams we have for the next phase of our life. We all know it’s not what you know but who you know. If you have the right relationships already established when you decide on your future, those key relationships can definitely be beneficial for you. 

Have you taken advantage of any of the services of the PA since retirement?

Yes, I have. The first one would be the UNC Brain and Body Health Program where I was given a full health screening evaluation both physical and mental. I thought that was very well put together. I’ve also taken advantage of the EXOS program. I went down to Pensacola, Florida a couple years back and took advantage of the different workout programs and eating regimens I needed to incorporate into my life. Those two things have been monumental for me and helped me live a healthier life both physically and mentally. I’ve also taken advantage of the Lee Hecht Harrison entrepreneur and career consulting program. Where they have given me some valuable information on how to run a successful business. I’m always trying to find different avenues of learning and growing, taking a different approach to being a success. 

What’s next for you?

I want to continue to expand on being an entrepreneur. As an entrepreneur we shouldn’t just focus on one thing and if you have different gifts and talents you need to use those talents. I want to stretch those talents/ opportunities and take advantage of the different people and resources that I have. I want to continue to expand in the food industry and open a couple of other businesses. At some point I would like to get back into football and either work in an NFL front office or coach. Right now, I coach a lot of kids in rec basketball and football, so the sports itch never leaves. I would like to get back to the professional level and use my 13-year career as a means of helping the younger players grow and mature. Not just to teach them about the game of football, but life and having financial freedoms.