Howard Herman | Designated Hitter: Kelton enjoying life at Morgan State
When Williams College hired Aaron Kelton as its football coach after the 2009 season, the school made history. After all, Kelton was the first-ever African-American head football coach in NESCAC history.
Kelton is now part of college football history, as he is the co-defensive coordinator at Morgan State University, one of the most famous Historically Black Colleges and Universities programs in the nation.
"It's terrific," Kelton said about being at Morgan State.
When Kelton's contract was not renewed at Williams three seasons ago, he spent the next two years as the football coach and became interim athletic director at Division II Shorter College in Georgia.
"This business is a funny business, and there's a lot that goes on with it," Kelton said, when we met last month after a game against the University at Albany. "I'm so proud of everything that I've been able to accomplish and been through in my career. To be able to be at a place like Morgan State is just fabulous.
"It's a new day for us over there, and we're trying to get this thing going."
For the record, Morgan State started out 1-3, a record that included a 30-27 loss at Albany and a loss to Division I-FBS Akron.
Last week, the Bears knocked off North Carolina A&T 16-13, on a field goal at the final gun. That was a program-making win, because North Carolina A&T was ranked fourth in Division I-FCS at the time, and hadn't lost a regular-season game in 665 days.
Once, Morgan State and Grambling were synonymous with great football. Kelton and head coach Ernest T. Jones are looking to restore the Baltimore, Md., school to its past glories. Those glories include a tenure under Earl "Papa Bear" Banks, who coached from 1960-73 and won 95 games while losing 30.
Morgan State has sent 38 players to the National Football League over the years. Four former Bears — Len Ford, Leroy Kelly, Roosevelt Brown and Willie Lanier — are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.
Kelly was the running back who followed the legendary Jim Brown in Cleveland, while Rosey Brown was a standout offensive lineman with the New York Football Giants in the 1960s.
Lanier, who played for the Kansas City Chiefs, was the dominant defensive force in the old American Football League.
If you are a child of the 1970s, you undoubtedly remember running back Frenchy Fuqua of Pittsburgh. He was the intended target in a 1972 NFL playoff game against Oakland. The ball hit, reportedly, off of Raiders defensive back Jack Tatum and ricocheted to Pittsburgh's Franco Harris, who rambled 60 yards for the deciding points in a 12-7 win for Pittsburgh.
Raymond Chester, like Fuqua a graduate of Morgan State, happened to be on the field that day for the Raiders.
"Coach has done a great job bring alums back," Kelton said. "They're Hall of Famers, and so we get a chance to share some stories and talk about those kind of things. That's pretty awesome."
Kelton had come to Williams after a stint as the defensive coordinator at Division I-FCS Columbia. The Williams job was his first head coaching job. He said that his years in Williamstown and at Shorter have made him a better coach, and he can help his new boss more.
"I'm a better assistant because I understand what the head coach goes through. For that, I feel like I'm becoming a better coach," said Kelton, who coaches defensive backs and splits defensive coordinator chores with Antonio James. "For me, I love being on the field and coaching the guys — having a position group, having my position meetings and being able to really, to do less than you do as a head coach.
"It's been really fun."
Things did not end well for Aaron Kelton in Williamstown, but the veteran coach did tell me that he is keeping an eye on how Mark Raymond's Ephs are doing.
"I have a ton of players who we are regularly in touch through social media. I do follow the teams," he said. "I wrote a note to the [Williams Sideline] Quarterbacks Club. I just wanted to let them know thank you for the time they have given me."
There is no telling how long Kelton will remain on the Morgan State staff. One thing is for sure, he wants to have his own program again at some point.
"My time will come, and I'll get back into it. Right now is not the time for me," he said. "I'm enjoying football, continuing to be a football coach and a football fan."
Howard Herman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, at @howardherman on Twitter, or 413-496-6253.
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