Sports

Hall of Fame QB Jim Kelly gets, gives inspiration

Jim Kelly, the former Buffalo Bills star and Hall of Fame quarterback, was the featured speaker at Charlotte Touchdown Club luncheon at the Westin Hotel on Tuesday, May 12, 2015. Kelly held a brief press conference prior to the luncheon.
Jim Kelly, the former Buffalo Bills star and Hall of Fame quarterback, was the featured speaker at Charlotte Touchdown Club luncheon at the Westin Hotel on Tuesday, May 12, 2015. Kelly held a brief press conference prior to the luncheon. jsimmons@charlotteobserver.com

Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly stole the show during the second day of the 2015 NFL Draft when he had the honor of announcing the Buffalo Bills’ second-round pick.

After a lengthy standing ovation as he made his way to the stage, Kelly – who only a year ago was fighting jaw and sinus cancer – used his time at the lectern to share news that he is officially cancer free.

On Tuesday, speaking at a luncheon hosted by the Charlotte Touchdown Club, the only quarterback to ever lead his team to four-consecutive Super Bowls turned in another applause-worthy performance.

But before he did so, the 55-year-old took a moment to speak to reporters and addressed the response he received back on April 1 at the draft in Chicago.

“I didn’t expect it,” said Kelly, who added that he is still cancer free. “I was humbled. I wasn’t sure of the reception since I walked out with (NFL Commissioner) Roger Goodell, so I wasn’t sure what was going to happen.

“But it was awesome. To have my wife and my daughters there that day was very special because it was my first draft, too. I’ve never been before. When I played they didn’t have all the hoopla that they have now, and it was fun.”

Kelly was at home with his agent and parents when he was drafted 14th overall back in 1983.

After being introduced to the crowd by Georgia Bulldogs coach Mark Richt – who backed up Kelly at the University of Miami when the two were in college Kelly took questions on everything from what it was like to grow up with five brothers, to his battle with cancer, to coping with the loss of his son, Hunter, who was born with globoid-cell leukodystrophy.

“I’m just here to get people to understand the never-give-up attitude,” said Kelly, who recovered from a career-threatening arm injury his senior year at Miami to become one of the best quarterbacks of all time.

“The bottom line for me is to make sure that people know that when you surround yourself with good people that good things will happen,” Kelly said.

Following the Q & A, Kelly turned the tables on the room and asked some trivia questions of his own, tossing signed footballs across the Westin Charlotte ballroom to those brave enough to answer.

Incorrect answers and drops resulted in $100 donations to charity.

Before tossing out his first ball, Kelly made a point to squeeze it tight, and then jokingly complained that it was way too inflated, referencing the ‘deflategate’ scandal currently surrounding quarterback Tom Brady and the New England Patriots.

The joke got far-and-way the largest laugh of the afternoon.

After the festivities, Kelly spoke to reporters more seriously about the four-game suspension of Brady, as well as the fines and loss of draft picks levied on the Patriots earlier this week.

“(The Patriots and Brady) had to pay the price unfortunately,” Kelly said. “It didn’t go the way they wanted it, but when you bend the rules like that – Tom’s a very good friend of mine – things happen.

“The good thing about it is that (Tom’s) going to at least miss the Buffalo Bills game, because they play each other in the second game of the season. I think four games is tough, two might be good, one, definitely wouldn’t be enough,” he added with a chuckle.

Kelly added that he’s still got six months of MRIs to undergo before he can officially be considered in remission.

“The people that come up to me after engagements like this and say how much I’ve inspired them, I want them to know that what they say to me helps inspire me to keep fighting and never give up,” said Kelly.

The message Kelly wanted to leave everyone with on Tuesday was a simple one.

“Make a difference today for someone who is fighting for tomorrow,” he said.

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