My father, former NFL running back Rob Lytle, suffered a heart attack and died on November 20, 2010, eight days after his 56th birthday. I was twenty-eight at the time. Nearly one year later, I made a decision to write him a tribute letter. That decision changed my life. To Dad: From Kelly is a memoir that uses my relationship with my dad as the lens to examine the defining moments of my life and, while I overcome my grief, reveal personal truths and long-concealed secrets.
Dad was an All-American running back for the University of Michigan, won the Big Ten Conference’s Most Valuable Player award in 1976, played for the Denver Broncos and scored a touchdown in Super Bowl XII. When he passed away, he died struggling with the idea that his life following football lacked meaning. Despite his accomplishments, nothing filled the twenty-six year void left in him after he retired from the NFL in 1984.
I graduated from Princeton University in 2005 and immediately joined Citigroup’s Corporate and Investment Bank. Despite the makings of a lucrative career, I left Wall Street after three years in search of more professional fulfillment in the front office of the Cleveland Browns football team. When I floundered in this dream job, I found myself questioning why my decision betrayed me and wondering whether I squandered the best of my opportunities. I felt the sting of history repeating itself. Was my life becoming as directionless as my father believed his was?
Almost twelve months after his passing, I chose to write my dad a letter. Several hours and discarded pages later, I finally demanded answers: why was playing professional football, rearing a loving family and inspiring many people somehow never enough. My quest to find these answers overlapped with my own journey of discovery, and forced me to admit my deepest fears and goal of becoming a writer and public speaker.
To Dad: From Kelly tells the story of a son making sense of his bond with his late father, while using that relationship to finally understand himself. Through short stories, personal letters, and family photos, I use the lessons that I learned from my dad, the questions that we left either unanswered or unasked, and my own personal confessions to finally tackle the purpose I’ve sought for many years.