Lawrence M. Kelley ’33

In the fall of 1932, when 17-year old Lawrence Morgan Kelley joined the football team at Peddie, coach Earl MacArthur was hardly impressed with the post-grad from Williamsport, Pennsylvania. He told the boy, “Kelley, as an end, you photograph beautifully, but that’s about it.”

Fortunately for Kelley, and Peddie, that proved to be a preliminary evaluation only, for Kelley went on to play football for MacArthur’s alma mater, Yale, and win the second ever Heisman Trophy in 1936. And he is one of only two linemen ever to win the coveted Heisman, awarded annually to the nation’s outstanding football player by New York’s Downtown Athletic Club. Kelley’s trophy has found a new home at Peddie, were Kelly said he came of age, and where he hopes today’s students will be inspired to reach their own aspirations.

But for Kelley, whom Peddie classmates described as possessing a “kindly nature and a physique of a pile driver,” the 57-year-old Heisman has meant more than athletic prowess. For him, it continues to be a “symbol of excellence” in all arenas. Not only did he excel on the athletic field, but graduated first in his Peddie class of 66 students, with a grade point average of 90,23, and went on to Yale where he made the Dean’s List for four years. 

On Yale’s athletic fields, he was only the third man in history to captain both the football and baseball teams. In his brilliant career, his sensational pass-catching gave Yale 15 touchdowns. Following Yale, he considered offers to join professional teams, and even a $15,000 deal to make a film for Hollywood to be called “Kelley at Yale.”

Kelley turned his back on the glamour, and accepted an offering teaching American history and coaching at Peddie. He stayed here five years, and his teams earned a 15-15-3 record. After various business ventures, and 12 years teaching at Cheshire Academy in Connecticut, he returned to Peddie in 1970 to work several years in the alumni and development office.