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Reggie Kelly and Patrick Willis represent Magnolia State in 2023 SEC Football Legends class

Reggie Kelly (left) and Patrick Willis (right). Photos courtesy of Mississippi State and Ole Miss.

The SEC announced its 2023 Football Legends class on Thursday with Reggie Kelly and Patrick Willis representing Mississippi’s two conference schools.

Kelly, who played tight end for Mississippi State from 1995-98, was an integral part of the Bulldogs’ 1998 run to the SEC championship. Over the course of his four years in Starkville, Kelly caught 29 passes for 474 yards with a pair of touchdowns and was named first-team All-SEC his senior year.

Following his collegiate years, Kelly was selected in the second round of the 1999 NFL Draft by the Atlanta Falcons. He went on to enjoy a 12-year professional career – five with Atlanta and seven with the Cincinnati Bengals – in which he hauled in 195 receptions for 1,767 yards with five touchdowns.

In 2007, Kelly won the Ed Block Courage Award, presented annually to a player from each team voted by their teammates as a role model of inspiration, sportsmanship, and courage. He retired in 2011.

Willis, a linebacker for Ole Miss from 2004-06, was one of college football’s most feared defensive players during his time in Oxford. Earning All-American honors twice, he ranked among the nation’s leaders in tackles in both 2005 and 2006. Following his final season, he was awarded the Butkus Award and Lambert Trophy as the top linebacker in Division I FBS.

In the 2006 NFL Draft, Willis was selected No. 11 overall by the San Francisco 49ers. He led the league in tackles as a rookie in 2007 and again in 2009. He was invited to seven Pro Bowls and named to five Al-NFL teams before retiring in 2015 due to a chronic foot injury.

Willis, after making such a monumental impact in eight years, was nominated for the Pro Football Hall of Fame earlier this year. While Willis was not selected for this year’s class, he is expected to eventually be inducted.

The 2023 Football Legends class will be honored before the conference championship game in December. The full list of 2023 SEC Football Legends:

  • Alabama – Andre Smith, Offensive Tackle, 2006-08
  • Arkansas – Dick Bumpas, Defensive Tackle, 1968-70
  • Auburn – Ed King, Offensive Lineman, 1988-90
  • Florida – Shane Matthews, Quarterback, 1990-92
  • Georgia – Knowshon Moreno, Running Back, 2007-08
  • Kentucky – Wesley Woodyard, Linebacker, 2004-07
  • LSU – James Britt, Defensive Back, 1979-82
  • Ole Miss – Patrick Willis, Linebacker, 2003-06
  • Mississippi State – Reggie Kelly, Tight End, 1995-98
  • Missouri – Chase Coffman, Tight End, 2005-08
  • South Carolina – Marcus Lattimore, Running Back, 2010-12
  • Tennessee – Joey Kent, Wide Receiver, 1992-96
  • Texas A&M – Ray Childress, Defensive Lineman, 1981-84
  • Vanderbilt – Jamie Winborn, Linebacker, 1998-2000

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