He’s played in four Super Bowls, but the biggest challenge Jim Kelly has faced is his ongoing battle with cancer. The Buffalo Bills quarterback will receive the Jimmy V Award at the 2018 ESPYS, so get to know about this NFL icon.
1. He will be honored at the ESPYS for persevering in his fight with oral cancer. He’s a Hall of Famer, a 5-time Pro Bowl pick and, on July 18, Buffalo’s favorite son Jim Kelly, 58, will be honored with the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance at the 2018 ESPYS. The legendary Buffalo Bills quarterback, who led the team to four consecutive Super Bowls in the early 90’s, has been battling cancer since June 2013. Jim was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma in his upper jaw. Initially declared cancer free, the disease returned in 2014. It seemed like he was in the clear after a round of chemotherapy in 2014, but the cancer returned in March 2018. He underwent surgery to remove the cancer and reconstruct his jaw.
“As people out there know, when you have cancer, you never know what tomorrow holds,” he said on June 4 when revealed he would be awarded the Jimmy V ESPY, per ESPN. “When I was diagnosed for the first time, it scares you. Second time, even more. Third time, I don’t even worry anymore. It is what it is. If it comes back, it comes back.” When asked if he would attend the ceremony, Jim answered, “God willing, I’ll be there.”
2. Jim was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2002. A Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania native, James Edward Kelley grew up in East Brady, playing for the East Brady High School football team. He spent four years at the University of Miami, throwing for 406 career completions for 5,233 yards and 32 touchdowns. The Bills picked him as the 14th pick of the 1983 NFL Draft, but because Jim didn’t want to play in a cold climate (really) he spent two seasons apart of the short-lived United States Football League, playing for the Houston Gamblers. When the Gambles folded, Jim joined the New Jersey Generals, then-owned by Donald Trump. When the USFL closed, Jim joined the Bills, and led them to success in the early 1990s. He retired in 1997 and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2002.
3. He never won “the big one.” If anyone watched a Super Bowl from 1991 to 1994, the saw the Buffalo Bills fight for the NFL Championship. Sadly, they came up short every time: falling to the New York Giants in ’91; losing to the Washington Redskins in ’92; and getting walloped by the Dallas Cowboys in both ’93 and ’94. Despite this, Jim remained highly regarded as one of the best QBs to step on the field
4. Jim tragically lost a son to Krabbe disease. Jim’s son, Hunter James Kelly, was diagnosed with globoid-cell leukodystrophy, or Krabbe disease, shortly after his birth in February 1997. The disease, which results in progressive damage to the nervous system, causes a person to suffer seizures, limb stiffness, feeding difficulties and the slowing of mental and motor development. Hunter passed away in 2005, and Jim started the Hunter’s Hope non-profit and the Hunter James Kelly Research Institute to help raise awareness and discover treatment to the disease.
5. He maintained a positive relationship with the current president. “When I was going through my cancer fight,” Jim told Fox News‘ Varney & Co. in 2017, “[Trump] provided my family and friends with a place to stay, his apartments. He took care of my whole family.” Jim said that while everyone is entitled to their own opinion of the president, he will forever be grateful to Donald. “We all make mistakes and I’m sure he’s made a few, but I’m happy for him.”
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