The name of Robert S. Kelly, athlete, coach and sportsman, is but a legend now. Few remain who remember him as a professional football player for the better part of two decades after the turn of the century. Some may recollect that he coached the Branford Townies to three Middlesex County League baseball championships but mostly forgotten are the nearly thirty years of playing and coaching the finest of the town’s basketball teams to spectacular successes.
But it is with the Laurels that Kelly is most identified. The six foot-five inch blacksmith began playing professional football for the Annex Eleven in 1897 at age fourteen but coaching seemed his natural talent.
As the Laurel’s coach, Bob led them to a first season with only a sing loss and went on to seven consecutive years without a loss. The crowds grew each yea until reportedly over 12,000 witnessed the famous streak snapping loss to the New Haven Boys Club, 12-9.
Kelly enjoyed nearly equal success coaching his boys to baseball championship finals in six of ten years. Likewise, in basketball, the MIF general foreman formed the team and led the way.