To Dad, From Kelly

Life teased its cruel smile at me the moment I clutched To Dad, From Kelly in my hands for the first time. I stroked the matte cover. Sweat beads formed in my palms, the September air heavy. And hot. The smoothness of the cover pleased me, and I smiled at the figure of a Denver Broncos running back — my dad — facing back at me. The book trembled against my red, flushed cheek as I pressed it against my skin, and inhaled my words. My eyes closed and my breaths slowed. I inhaled, exhaled, opened my eyes, and squinted into the afternoon sun. I flipped the thin pages and wondered at the lifetime of emotion wrapped in 170 pages — the lifelong goal ignited by an ocean’s worth of cried grief.

I had wanted to write a book since before I left elementary school but never had the guts. My dad died in November 2010. In October 2014, I published my first book. The desperation I felt over Dad’s death finally gave me the courage to write honest stories.

Now, I want to share those stories.

My father, former University of Michigan All-American and Denver Broncos running back Rob Lytle, died of a heart attack on November 20, 2010, at age 56. To Dad, From Kelly reflects on the lessons I learned from him and the questions between us left unasked and unanswered when he died. Over the next two weeks, I will be sharing chapters from To Dad, From Kelly as a Father’s Day tribute.

I will show my love for my father and spill the anguish I felt over his death. I’ll reminisce about nights spent as a kid with Dad at his neighborhood bar mixing with adults, talking sports and talking life. I’ll laugh again at the taunt I received when I discovered pornography.

We’ll walk behind the scenes and experience life after football for a one-time everybody’s All-American. Dad reached the pinnacle of his sport as the first man to score a touchdown in the Rose Bowl and the Super Bowl, but his mangled hands, scarred legs, and pained steps bore the cost of his glory days for than any of his touchdowns or accolades.

Dad loved football unconditionally and sacrificed himself to the game. Was this devotion worth the nearly 30 surgeries, functional addiction to painkillers, CTE-related brain deterioration, and death at 56? Stay tuned.

Dad shaped me through his humility, kindness, care, and sense of humor. He was my father, friend, mentor, and teacher, and he played these roles with a playful smile spread across his face.

As you read these stories, I hope that you laugh and cry, think, smile, and understand what Dad meant to me. More importantly, I hope these stories ignite a memory or fond reflection of a moment with your father or your son.

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