Kelly has Cancer

Jim Kelly knows disappointment, but only on the field (courtesy of

According to Bleacher Report and a statement just released by the NFL franchise Buffalo Bills, former quarterback and Hall of Famer Jim Kelly—by far the best quarterback this team has ever seen—has just been diagnosed with squamous-cell carcinoma—cancer—of the upper jaw bone. This Friday, he will undergo surgery to remove the malignancy and has a “very good” chance of recovering completely.

Kelly is extremely lucky that the cancer has not spread to other parts of his body and still remains isolated in his upper jaw. And he certainly seems ready to face this latest—and greatest—obstacle.

“I plan to tackle this challenge head on, as we always do,” Kelly shared on Instagram recently. “With toughness, perseverance and faith.”

Jim Kelly began his professional football career in 1983 as part of the now defunct USFL’s Houston Gamblers. In two seasons, he managed to throw for nearly 10,000 yards and 83 touchdowns. His completion percentage was 63% and breaks down to an average of 8.5 yards per attempt.

Jim Kelly

Jim is ready to fight! (courtesy of David Duprey/AP)

Not bad for a guy who was overshadowed by another Hall of Fame player in the 1983 NFL draft: the great Denver Bronco quarterback John Elway.

Fortunately for Kelly, he found work in the NFL once the USFL collapsed in 1986. Although Buffalo was never his first choice—he listed it along with Minnesota and Green Bay as places too cold for him to play during his first draft experience in 1983—Kelly signed with the team and the rest, as they say, is football history.

Take a look at everything Jim Kelly accomplished in his eleven years with the Bills:

  • He took the team to six divisional championships from 1988 to 1995 and made the playoffs in eight of his eleven seasons.
  • Kelly and the Bills reached “The Big Game”—the Super Bowl, duh—four years in a row. Sadly, they were never able to take home the Lombardi trophy.
  • His 81 completions in 145 attempts during these four Super Bowls are the second most in NFL history behind another big name: Joe Montana of the San Francisco 49ers.
  • He popularized the “K-Gun” no-huddle offense, which is still used by many teams today, in one form or another.
  • Kelly holds the all-time NFL record for most yards per completion in a single game (44) and made the Pro Bowl four times.
  • When you combine his USFL and NFL records, Kelly posted a total of 45,000 passing yards and 320 touchdowns in his professional career. Needless to say, the Bills retired his #12 jersey in 2001.
  • In August of 2002—and despite being a first-time nominee with other notable players like John Stallworth, Dave Casper and George Allen—Kelly was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

To me, it’s heartbreaking when someone as consistently good as Jim Kelly fails to leave the game with a Super Bowl ring on his finger, but this guy obviously did the best he could and set the standard for players to come.

In terms of his cancer, I fully expect Kelly to attack it with the same determination and verve that made him such a great football player. And unlike all those disappointing Super Bowl losses, I get the feeling that in this battle—which is obviously life or death—he will be victorious.

I may not be a Bills fan, but I’m pulling for you, Jim!

Posted on June 3, 2013, in Perspectives and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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