Enemy, Hero, Friend! Jim Kelly and His Buffalo Fan Connection

Jim Kelley - The Herd Report

We knew our team was getting worse again as we finished with only four wins in 1982. The 1983 draft was our ticket for finally getting a quarterback that could change our luck for the immediate future.

The Buffalo Bills chose Jim Kelly in the first round of the 1983 draft. Every home in Western NY seemed to be tuned in. People who were not football fans were talking about this. Avid fans wished this day would occur and when it did it was like our world was saved.

But he turned us down! Jim Kelly would not care about us and decided his best decision was not to come to play for the Buffalo Bills, but instead to play for the Houston gamblers in the United States Football League. How could this be? He became our enemy! Our enemy stayed there for two long years where he threw for 9,842 yards and had 83 touchdown passes. Only because the league folded did he then decide to sign with us. The enemy was coming back to us because his second rate USFL league folded! I remember feeling like we should just kiss this enemy good riddance!!

But we here in Buffalo are different people than most. We forgive and forget like no other and welcomed this enemy into our homes to once again give us a chance at having a good football team. Yes, in Buffalo having a team that’s good is so precious that we seem to define ourselves in every way through our teams. I remember Jim Kelly being introduced at the podium telling all of us that we are going to be good! His confidence made us forget the past two years. I know everyone felt like me and in their minds they were thinking, “Oh its ok Jim!”

And it was as Jim Kelly became our hero and gave us the most wonderful ride of our football lives. We won so many games and our team was finally in the national spotlight which made us all feel special. With all the success, we then accomplished what no team had done or most likely will ever do in going to 4 straight Super Bowls!  No we did not win them but it was the best times here in Buffalo!

Jim Kelly was our hero! 8 times he passed for more than 3000 yards in a season. Twenty-six times he passed for more than 300 yards in a game.

During the 1990’s the Bills developed the “no-huddle” offense and it was all orchestrated by Jim Kelly like no one had ever seen! Jim’s ability to call his own plays without huddling up was not only new and fun to watch but mesmerizing to defenses.

Yes, we had built a team filled with great players. Thurman Thomas, Andre Reed and so many others including an offensive line that was simply the best with Kent Hull at the helm. Our Defense was great with arguably the best pass rusher buffalo we will ever have in Bruce Smith.

Shane Conlan, Cornelius Bennett, Daryl Talley and the names went on and on with greatness.

What a team we had in those 1990’s, but no one can argue that our ultimate leader was Jim Kelly. He took this team on its back and in 11 seasons in Buffalo, led our Bills to the playoffs eight times. In 17 playoff game appearances, including four consecutive Super Bowls, he passed for 3,863 yards and 21 touchdowns. At the time of his retirement, his 84.4 passer rating ranked sixth all-time and was second when compared to all other Hall of Fame quarterbacks.

Jim had 35,467 career passing yards which ranked tenth in NFL history while his 2,874 completions ranked eighth. He went to four pro bowls and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2002.  After their induction, Jim Kelly would now always be remembered as our hero and nationally for the greatness he performed while being the quarterback for our Buffalo Bills!

Years would go by and every time we heard about Jim, it was like hearing about a friend.

Jim and Jill with Hunter.jpg

We unfortunately would learn that Jim Kelly’s son has Krabbe disease and this becomes Jim and his wife’s next battle in life. He is Jim Kelly and we are concerned about our friend and his family. Yes, even though we do not know him personally…he is a friend!

We hurt when we hear the news that Hunter Kelly died in 2005 at the precious young age of 8 years old.

Jim and his wife continue to honor his memory with the Hunter’s Hope Foundation which since 1997 has raised, through so many of us and so many around the world, more than six million dollars and awarded more than 3.8 million dollars to leukodystrophy and other neurological disease-related research.

More time goes on and we hear the unthinkable now that Jim Kelly has Cancer. Our friend has gone through so much good but then with his son and now this…it has been real bad!

Jim Kelley 2014  - The Herd Report

It is like our close friend is sick and you become sick even thinking about it. Jim had Cancer in the upper jaw area and had surgery on this that we heard went well. He has now gone through chemotherapy and is doing the best he can. As of this writing he continues to fight this one day at a time. With his natural bravery and confidence, family and friend support and with all our daily prayers, we all hope that this opponent with that big fat C on its chest can be defeated once and for all!

Jim Kelly is our quarterback…our friend and has us all in Buffalo as his lifelong teammates!