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An early start in Germany

By BRIAN LANDMAN

© St. Petersburg Times, published October 15, 2000


TAMPA -- Although Brian Kelly already was a budding football star, he didn't watch -- or even care much -- about the 1980 Super Bowl.

Give him a break. He was 4 years old, and he and his family were a world away, living in United States military housing in downtown Frankfurt, Germany.

"I was definitely a football fan even then, but I don't remember seeing the game," the third-year cornerback said. "I don't remember watching much then. We took a lot of pictures, but I don't really remember much about that year other than playing football on the base, and the candy.

"They had great Gummi Bears. . . . They had pretty good chocolate. But the thing I really remember is they had these things called pommes frites. I definitely remember those."

Pommes frites are akin to french fries -- long, thin, crispy and the perfect size for dipping.

"They had this mayonnaise-ranch sauce for them," Kelly said, smacking his lips.

"Oh, yes. That was his favorite," said his father, Issac, a retired master sergeant in the Air Force. "In Germany, they don't boil their hot dogs, they fry them. He always wanted hot dogs and pommes frites. He was the pommes frites king."

Fortunately for the young Kelly, his family was able to live in the center of the bustling city. His father, an electronics technician, worked about two hours away, and the commute was easier from town.

Tiny family-owned restaurants that served pommes frites were easy to find. But that wasn't the only benefit to living downtown, Issac Kelly said.

Although the Kellys lived in military housing, there were no fences or guarded checkpoints. A German family lived next door. So, unlike life on a base would have been, Brian lived in a racially and ethnically diverse neighborhood. But the Kellys also spent significant time on the base, which taught Brian other lessons he couldn't appreciate at such a tender age, but ones that nonetheless left an indelible mark.

"It taught him to live with all different types of people and appreciate people for who they are," said Issac, who also was a minister at a Frankfurt church and now has a church in Denver. "He learned to adapt. He didn't have any choice. Wherever we went, we always just had a one-way ticket. That was our home. For then. That helped him to grow in all areas of his life."

Sports and football helped Brian learn that lesson, too. He was a quarterback for the base preschool-age team. And a pretty good one at that. Not only did he show athletic excellence, he demonstrated leadership skills.

"We were just running around tackling each other," Brian said.

"He always cheered the other guys on, and he felt they could beat anybody," his father said. "You could tell he enjoyed the game. His brother Patrick (who is 5 years older) played football, and that inspired him, too. But Brian was having fun. Like he is now."

Even if pommes frites are harder to come by.

Q: If you could go back to 1980 and tell yourself something, what would it be?

A: I think I'd just tell myself to have more fun because it goes by quicker than you think. When you grow up, you don't have as much fun as you did when you were 4 years old.

SUPER BOWL XIV

Jan. 20, 1980

Pasadena, Calif.

Steelers 31, Rams 19

MVP: Terry Bradshaw, Steelers quarterback (14-of-21 for 309 yards and two touchdowns; he becomes the Super Bowl career leader in TD passes with nine and passing yards with 932).

IN THE NEWS: April-on: Under pressure from President Carter, the U.S. Olympic Commitee announces it will boycott the Summer Games in Moscow to protest the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan; 63 nations follow suit. Sept. 19: Iraqi troops hold 90 square miles of Iran after an invasion; an eight-year Iran-Iraq war begins. Nov. 4: Republican Ronald Reagan is elected president.

BEST PICTURE OSCAR: Kramer vs. Kramer

MUSIC OF THE MOMENT: The Wall/Pink Floyd

EVERYBODY'S WATCHING: Facts of Life

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