A native of Toledo, Ohio, Kelly attended the University of Toledo, where he played ice hockey and was named Rookie of the Year in 1965. That same year he began calling hockey games for WMHE-FM. He worked at various stations throughout Ohio from 1965 to 1970 and from 1970 to 1974 he covered golf tournaments for Golf Network, Inc., which was heard on the Mutual and the NBC Radio networks.
From 1978 to 1982 Kelly also worked as a sports anchor for WCAU, where he won an Eclipse Award in 1980 for local horse racing coverage. In July 1983, he became a sports anchor at WNEV-TV in Boston. He left the station that October in a "mutual decision" between him and WNEV management.