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Football Digest, November 1974

Mark Kellar: The Big Little Runner Nobody Wanted

By Rick Talley

Let's hear a small hip-hip for Mark Kellar, the kid from Northern Illinois who made the right decision.

Kellar plays football for the Chicago Fire. You may have noticed him on television. He's the guy who's wearing No. 31 and running away from everybody into the end zone. Kellar scored five touchdowns and 36 points in an early-season World Football League game against the Hawaiians and through the first half of the season or so he was one of the league's leading scorer.

Kellar's story is so classic you'd never dream of writing it that way if you were composing fiction.

He's the guy nobody wanted.

He was 5-11 and weighed 217 as a senior at Irving Crown High School in Carpentersville, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago.

He was a good high school athlete. He played football and basketball and ran track. But nobody seemed to notice. When it came time for college, only Northern Illinois University and the University of Wisconsin at Platteville offered him full financial aid.

Mark chose Northern Illinois. Where he managed to gain 3,745 yards during his college career...including 1,719 during his senior season, which led the nation in rushing. His career total lists him sixth on the all-time NCAA rushing list behind such dudes O.J. Simpson, Ollie Matson and Mercury Morris.

Again, though, nobody seemed too excited. The Minnesota Vikings drafted him on the fourth round with a yawn.

"I was really disappointed when I didn't get drafted in the earlier rounds." Kellar said. "When I talked with the Vikings' general manager, he told me the team had wanted to pick a running back in the earlier rounds, but all the good ones were gone.

Well...I just didn't like the way the guy came across. It seemed like the Vikings just wanted to get me signed so they could get to the next guy."

So Kellar didn't sign. He listened instead, to Tom Origer, owner of the Fire. He was impressed with the new organization's efficiency. He liked the money. He appreciated the polite manner in which he was treated. So he took a chance and signed with a new team in a new league.

Now people are noticing Mark Kellar. They have no choice.