Kelly in 2010
|Date of birth:February 14, 1960|
|Place of birth: East Brady, Pennsylvania|
|College: University of Miami|
|NFL Draft: 1983 / Round: 1 / Pick: 14|
|Debuted in 1984 for the Houston Gamblers|
|Last played in 1996 for the Buffalo Bills|
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics
|Pro Football Hall of Fame|
Kelly was the third quarterback taken in the 1983 NFL Draft which featured six quarterbacks taken in the first round where John Elway was the first pick. Employing the "K-Gun" offense, known for its no-huddle shotgun formations, Kelly led one of the great NFL scoring juggernauts in the Buffalo Bills. Kelly led the Bills to four consecutive Super Bowls, from 1991 to 1994; however, each time the team lost. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2002 in his first year of eligibility.
Kelly's jersey number, 12, is the only number ever retired in Buffalo Bills' history. In 2009, Kelly was elected to the Buffalo Bills' 50th Season All-Time Team.
East Brady High School
Kelly was born on February 14, 1960. He grew up in the small town of East Brady, Pennsylvania, about 55 miles northeast of Pittsburgh. He was a standout at East Brady High School, where during his high school career he won all-state honors after passing for 3,915 yards and 44 touchdowns. After his senior year, Kelly played in the Big 33 Football Classic.
Kelly also played basketball in high school, scoring over 1,000 points in his high school career and had six 30-plus-point games. As a senior he led East Brady to the basketball state semifinals and averaged 23 points and 20 rebounds.
University of Miami
Kelly wanted to attend the Penn State University under Joe Paterno, but he was offered a linebacker scholarship instead of quarterback.  He went to the University of Miami. At Miami, he played an important role in helping build the university into one of the nation's premier collegiate football programs. He finished his career at Miami with 406 completions in 646 attempts for 5,233 yards and 32 TDs. This performance earned Kelly a place in the University of Miami Hall of Fame where he was inducted in 1992.
Because of fellow quarterback John Elway's well-publicized reluctance to play for the Baltimore Colts, which chose him in the 1983 NFL Draft, Kelly's agent asked whether there were any teams he would not play for. Kelly, who disliked cold weather, listed the Minnesota Vikings, Green Bay Packers, and Buffalo Bills. He was pleased to see while watching the 1983 draft on television that the Bills did not select him as the 12th pick in the first round, but learned from his agent that the team had another first-round pick; the Bills chose Kelly as the 14th pick. Although Kelly at the time stated that he had expected the Bills to choose him, he later said, "You have to say those things ... I cried. (Laughs) I didn't really literally cry. I just had tears. I'm like, 'You got to be kidding me.'"
Although he believed that team owner Ralph Wilson would not bring in the right players to build a championship team, Kelly was resigned to playing for the Bills. While meeting with the team to negotiate his contract, however, a Bills secretary mistakenly let Bruce Allen, general manager of the rival United States Football League's Chicago Blitz, reach Kelly on the telephone; Allen persuaded Kelly to leave the meeting. Kelly later claimed that the USFL offered him his choice of teams because of the league's interest in signing quarterbacks. He signed with the Houston Gamblers, who played in the climate-controlled Houston Astrodome, and said, "Would you rather be in Houston or Buffalo?"
In two seasons in Houston, leading coach Mouse Davis' run-and-shoot offense, he threw for 9,842 yards and 83 touchdowns, completing 63% with an average of 8.53 yards per attempt with 45 interceptions. He was the USFL MVP in 1984, when he set a league record with 5,219 yards passing and 44 TD passes. Kelly's USFL records eclipsed those of fellow league quarterbacks Doug Williams and Steve Young. When the Houston Gamblers folded, Kelly went to the New Jersey Generals and was slated as their starting quarterback. Kelly also appeared on a cover of Sports Illustrated while holding a Generals' helmet, but the league collapsed before he ever fielded a snap with the Generals.
Kelly finally joined the Bills (who had retained his NFL rights) in 1986 after the USFL folded. He helped lead the Bills to four consecutive Super Bowl appearances and six divisional championships from 1988 to 1995. Buffalo made the playoffs in eight of Kelly's 11 seasons as their starting quarterback. Kelly's primary 'go-to' wide receiver with the Bills, Andre Reed, ranks among the NFL's all-time leaders in several receiving categories. Kelly and Reed connected for 65 TDs during their career together trailing only the tandems of Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison (112), Steve Young and Jerry Rice (85), Peyton Manning and Reggie Wayne (69) and Dan Marino and Mark Clayton (79) for touchdowns by an NFL quarterback and receiver tandem.
Kelly ran the Bills' "K-Gun" no-huddle offense, which was a fast-paced offense named after tight end Keith McKeller, that denied opposing defenses the opportunity to make timely substitutions (the NFL later changed the rules in response to this to allow opposing defenses time to change formations under no-huddle situations, but this applied only if the offense made personnel substitutions). This offensive scheme called for multiple formation calls in a huddle, so that after each play was completed, the Bills would eschew a following huddle, instead lining up for the next play where Kelly would read the defense and audible the play. This led to mismatches and defensive communication breakdowns and, in the 1990s, established the Bills as one of the NFL's most successful and dangerous offenses, instrumental in leading Buffalo to four consecutive Super Bowl appearances.
Records and accomplishments
Kelly holds the all-time NFL record for most yards gained per completion in a single game (44), established on September 10, 1995 in the Bills' game against the expansion Carolina Panthers. He recorded an NFL best 101.2 passer rating in 1990, led the league with 33 touchdowns passes in 1991, and made the Pro Bowl four times in (1987, 1990, 1991, and 1992).
In his four Super Bowls, Kelly completed 81 of 145 passes for 829 yards and two touchdowns, with seven interceptions. His 81 completions and 145 attempts are the second most in Super Bowl history behind Joe Montana. In Super Bowl XXVI, he set a record with 58 pass attempts, and in Super Bowl XXVIII he set a record with 31 completions (this was later surpassed by Tom Brady's 32 completions in Super Bowl XXXVIII and by Drew Brees in Super Bowl XLIV, and most recently by Peyton Manning's 33 completions in Denver's loss to Seattle in Super Bowl XLVIII).
Kelly finished his 11 NFL seasons with 2,874 completions in 4,779 attempts for 35,467 yards and 237 touchdowns, with 175 interceptions, all of which are Buffalo records. He also rushed for 1,049 yards and seven touchdowns.
On August 3, 2002, Kelly was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Kelly was enshrined during the first year he was eligible, and headlined a class that also featured John Stallworth, Dan Hampton, Dave Casper, and George Allen. Fellow hall-of-fame member and former head coach Marv Levy, was Kelly's presenter at the ceremony.
Key to abbreviations
GP = Games played
Rec = Quarterback record
Att = Passes attempted
Com = Passes completed
Pct = Completion percentage
Yds = Yards
TD = Touchdowns
Int = Interceptions
Rate = Passer rating
Kelly devoted much of his post-football life to his son, Hunter James Kelly, who was diagnosed with globoid-cell leukodystrophy (Krabbe disease) shortly after his birth on February 14, 1997. Hunter died as a result of this disease on August 5, 2005, at the age of 8. This loss deeply affected Kelly.
To honor his son, Kelly established a non-profit organization in 1997: Hunter's Hope. Kelly's advocacy on behalf of Krabbe patients has increased national awareness of the disease. He and his wife Jill founded the annual Hunter's Day of Hope, which is held on February 14, the birthdays of both Jim and Hunter Kelly. The Hunter James Kelly Research Institute was founded at the University of Buffalo in 2004, where neuroscientists and clinicians are studying myelin and its diseases.
When Kelly was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2002, he dedicated his speech to Hunter. "It's been written that the trademark of my career was toughness," he said as he choked back tears. "The toughest person I ever met in my life was my hero, my soldier, my son, Hunter. I love you, buddy."
Kelly continues to reside in East Aurora, New York, with his wife Jill and their daughters, Erin and Camryn. He has several business ventures, including Hall of Fame Life Promotions, a promotional company that is committed to donating a percentage of all of its proceeds to the Hunter's Hope Foundation.
In 2011, Kelly founded Jim Kelly Inc. a company which produces the MyFanClip line of all purpose clips which bear sports team logos and other insignia. MyFanClip has licensing agreements with the NFL, MLB, NHL and NASCAR. Proceeds also benefit the Hunter's Hope Foundation.
Since 1988, Kelly has run a football camp for youths between the ages of eight to 18 at the Buffalo Bills facilities. It started with 325 campers in its first year, growing to over 500 campers a year. This camp provides teaching from experienced coaches and previous players from all over the country. Kelly also participates in various drills with the participants.
He has expressed interest in being, at least in part, owner of the Buffalo Bills when the trust currently holding the franchise sells the team. He has committed to doing what he can to keep the Buffalo Bills in Western New York.
On June 3, 2013, Kelly announced that he has been diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma, a cancer of the upper jaw. He underwent surgery at a Buffalo hospital on June 7. Kelly reported to news outlets shortly after his surgery that the procedure was successful and he was now cancer-free. On March 14, 2014, after a follow-up test at the Erie County Medical Center, it was announced that Kelly's cancer had recurred.
- Buffalo Bills 50th Anniversary All-Time Team
- Jim Kelly profile
- Buffalo Bills website
- ESPN - Jim Kelly Stats, News, Photos - Buffalo Bills - NFL Football
- [dead link]
- Neumann, Thomas (October 14, 2010). "Jim Kelly talks football, life, wrestling". ESPN Page 2. Retrieved 2010-10-18.
- [dead link]
- "Elway to Marino". 30 for 30. Season 2. 2013-04-23. ESPN.
- "Jim Kelly, Football, New Jersey Generals". Sports Illustrated (SI Vault). July 21, 1986. Retrieved 2010-10-18.
- [dead link]
- Jim Kelly Stats HOF
- Wawrow, John. "Former Bills QB Kelly battling cancer of the jaw". Yahoo Sports. Retrieved 4 June 2013.
- Chad Kelly looking forward to a reunion
- "Jim Kelly: I'm now 'cancer-free'". ESPN.com. Retrieved 19 July 2013.
- Career statistics and player information from NFL.com • ESPN • Pro-Football-Reference
- Official website
- "Hunter's Hope" official website
- Jim Kelly profile at Pro Football Hall of Fame
- Hunter James Kelly Research Institute official website