It was not too long ago that UCLA running back Joshua Kelley was just another fan soaking in the fact that the Los Angeles Rams had finally returned home after two decades.
As a Lancaster native, Kelley made it a point to attend the training camp practices at UC Irvine when the Rams returned prior to the 2016 campaign. He got to witness firsthand what exactly an NFL player and practice looked like.
After putting in work of his own, Kelley will now have the opportunity to become one of those players. It seems the experience of getting an early peek at his future helped to pay huge dividends.
According to Gary Klein of the L.A. Times, Kelley recalls what it was like getting to see players such as defensive tackle Aaron Donald and running back Todd Gurley in person for the first time:
“It was kind of intimidating because I saw Aaron Donald, and like this dude is huge,” Kelley said Wednesday at the NFL scouting combine. “I saw Todd Gurley. Those guys are crazy big. I just soaked it up.”
“Just watching, just kind of like visualizing,” Kelley said, “Like one day, hopefully, I’ll be on an NFL roster at training camp. It was nice.”
Kelley added that having a hometown team helps to serve as motivation for him and other kids around Los Angeles to realize their NFL dreams:
“For those kids in L.A., no matter where they live, having an NFL team nearby is something to inspire, something to cheer for,” Kelley said. “It’s something to like OK, to visualize, being at the practices, get a chance to see the pros, how they train.
“I think that’s huge for them because it helps their development, and helps them stay focused and motivated.”
Kelley’s story is certainly telling of the kind of impact the Rams have had since returning to the place where it all started. It will be interesting to see if there is a chance that this opportunity comes full-circle for him by landing with the team that helped inspire him in the first place.
The Rams have indicated that they would like to rely on a ‘two-headed monster’ in the backfield to help carry the run game. Although all signs point to Gurley being the featured back, it remains to be seen if his health will continue to be a concern in the 2020 NFL season.
Meanwhile, second-year running back Darrell Henderson has earned plenty of praise from head coach Sean McVay and general manager Les Snead for his skill set as a pass-catcher out of the backfield. Los Angeles could very well be prepared to go for a more youthful approach to help provide a spark.
While Kelley’s stellar production has flown under the radar due to UCLA’s underwhelming showings in recent years, he seemingly managed to boost his draft stock with a strong outing in the Senior Bowl by rushing for 105 yards on 15 carries. He could make for an intriguing option if the Rams hope to secure some quality depth for the right price.