Mark Kelso always looked like a little kid out there playing football. As the first player to wear a ‘ProCap’ helmet, he was actually over 20 years ahead of the game and its current state in regards to concussions. Mark began wearing the helmet after his first concussion in 1989, when he was diagnosed with migrane syndrome and although it looked quite ridiculous, the helmet with its extra level of padding probably helped Kelso sustain his playing career another 5 years (primarily) for the Bills. The helmet earned him the nickname ‘The Great Gazoo’, (after the alien from the “Flintstones” TV series, who wore a helmet similar in shape,) and constantly was pointed out and circled by TV commentators- only endearing him to Bills fans further.
Mark Kelso was a safety drafted in the 10th round by the Philadelphia Eagles in 1985 out of William & Mary. The Eagles were stacked at the position, so the smaller Kelso standing at 5’11”, 177 found himself in a numbers game and unable to crack the squad. The Bills picked Mark up and he soon became a fixture at free safety for the Bills by the 1987 season. A ball hawk, Kelso always happened to be at the right place, at the right time in the Bills defensive scheme. In 1987 he recorded 6 picks, and recorded 2 fumbles- one of which he returned for a touchdown. He quickly followed the season up in 1988, recording a career high 7 interceptions, for a league leading 180 yards and a touchdown. Mark wasn’t done as he bookended the two season in 1989 with another 6 picks and 2 fumble recoveries. Teams began to throw away from Mark by 1990, respecting his abilities. Over those next two years he’d have back to back 2 pick seasons, before returning to form one more season in 1992 with 7 more interceptions. Mark was truly unsung over his career with the Bills, and while he did post stellar numbers at Free Safety, he received no Pro Bowl nominations or attention for his numbers outside of the AFC East, outside of winning the Byron “Whizzer” White NFL Man of the Year award in 1993 for community development. Sadly, the ProCap retired with Kelso. It did not catch on because either the perception it was unattractive and/or the helmet makers told players that it would void the warranty of the regular helmet since the ProCap was a ‘stick on’.
Mark has continued to be involved in serious discussions and development of helmet wear to reduce the risk of injuries in pro football and has made his home in Buffalo. He has also done radio color commentary for Bills games, and is involved with coaching and management of youth sports teams. Oddly, this is the first autograph in the collection where a player inscribed “God Bless” on the card, as opposed to a bible verse.
Part of the ‘Canton Acquisition’, a small collection of autographed cards I acquired from a friend of mine who had fallen on hard times, I found it hard not to justify the purchase. A few of the cards were from players I already had, and after verifying the autographs, I went ahead and made a deal to preserve them from falling into the hands of somebody who might just resell them again. It is a tricky slope, because I am not fond of people who sell or buy autographs, but I felt in this extra ordinary case, the situation was justified. I was disappointed that when I asked the seller about these autographs, he didn’t have any fond memories of the players or why he wrote them- other than the fact that had been doing this in the hope of passing it down to his son.
G/Gs 99/95 Tac N/a Fum 8 Sac 0 Int 30 Yds 327 Avg 10.9 Td 1 Lg 78t