Heisman Winner Larry Kelley Dies

Wednesday, June 28th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

HIGHTSTOWN, N.J. (AP) — Larry Kelley, the second college football player to win the Heisman Trophy, apparently shot himself to death at his home. He was 85 and had been ailing.

Police arrived at Kelley's home Tuesday after a report of a person with a gunshot wound, said Angelo Onofri, an assistant in the Mercer County prosecutor's office.

Kelley was pronounced dead at the scene. An autopsy is planned. He had suffered a stroke in May 1999, and his wife, Mary Ruth, was also in failing health.

Kelley won college football's highest honor in 1936 at Yale. He was an All-American end and led the team to a 7-1 record that year. He was elected to the National Football Hall of Fame in 1969.

On Nov. 13, 1934, Yale recorded one of its greatest upset wins ever when Kelley made a one-handed grab of a 49-yard pass, scoring the only touchdown in a 7-0 victory over a Princeton team that had won 15 straight games.

During his senior year at Yale, he was captain of the football and baseball teams and also played varsity basketball.

Last December, Kelley became the second Heisman Trophy winner to auction his prize to the public. He had said he wanted to give the money to his many nieces and nephews.

``I'm 84 and not doing too good, so I decided to let go of all my memorabilia,'' he said.

The trophy sold for $328,110 — $100,000 more than the price paid for O.J. Simpson's Heisman earlier that year. Kelley's award was the first to bear the name of coach John Heisman.

Jay Berwanger, who won the first Heisman Trophy in 1935, signed autographs with Kelley a few weeks ago in New York. ``He was a grand person,'' said Berwanger, 86.

After his years at Yale, Kelley taught and coached at the Peddie School, a private academy in Hightstown that he had attended in his teens, said his niece Pat Hullfish. He also taught at the Cheshire Academy in Cheshire, Conn., for several years before returning to Peddie as alumni director. He retired in 1975.

Besides his wife and nephews and nieces, Kelley's survivors include a brother-in-law and two sisters-in-law.