Robert “Fat Rob” Kelley is not fat.
Once upon a time the running back ate a lot of food during his collegiate career at Tulane and was dubbed “Fat Rob.” He got a backpack with the nickname on it and that was that.
At least that’s the way Kelley described the origins of his nickname. The person who gave it to him told the Washington Post there was a slightly different reasoning for it.
“He did gain a little bit of weight his senior year because he wasn’t practicing during the spring, but he had a really big heart and sometimes he was loyal to a fault,” former Tulane running backs coach David Johnson said. “For me it was more about his heart and his character. It kind of came a little true when he gained that weight.”
Whatever the reason for the nickname is, the “Fat Rob” moniker followed him to the NFL. And he introduced himself as “Fat Rob” on Sunday night this week.
"I don't really care, I'm just happy what I'm doing. They can call me whatever they want," Kelley told reporters.
And now, with six weeks left to play, Washington is pinning its hopes on “Fat Rob” to lead the rushing offense and help carry the team to the postseason. In a crucial Week 10 win over the tough Minnesota Vikings defense, Kelley managed to battle his way to 97 yards on 22 attempts.
He was even better in a Week 11 win over the Packers. Kelly finished the game with 137 rushing yards and three touchdowns in Washington’s 42-24 win.
When Alfred Morris left in the offseason to sign a two-year contract with the Dallas Cowboys, rushing duties were handed to Washington’s 2015 third-round pick Matt Jones and 2013 fifth-round pick Chris Thompson. But Jones has dealt with a knee injury in 2016 and Kelley climbed ahead of Thompson on the depth chart.
With Jones out of action in Week 8, Kelley was the team’s starter and finished with 87 rushing yards and a touchdown in a 27-27 tie against the Cincinnati Bengals.
The production was enough to secure the starting job for Kelley even though Jones is now ready to return from his injury.
Gruden says for now he thinks Rob Kelley to will get bulk of carries and Jones "will have to earn his way back."— Mike Jones (@MikeJonesWaPo) November 7, 2016
It’s not hard to see why coaches want to roll with “Fat Rob.” In his limited time on the field, Kelley has shown the vision to find cutback lanes, the burst to get into open space, and the strength to break tackles and gain additional yardage.
In the competitive NFC East, Washington is 6-3-1 and currently in line for the second NFC wild card berth. In the last six weeks of the season, the team has matchups against four more teams that are top 10 in total defense — the Dallas Cowboys, Arizona Cardinals, Philadelphia Eagles, and New York Giants.
To stand a chance at getting to the playoffs, Washington will need to keep its rushing attack chugging along smoothly and that means feeding “Fat Rob.”