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Jim Kelly

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Title: Jim Kelly  
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Subject: List of Buffalo Bills starting quarterbacks, NFL on CBS, Super Bowl XXV, Super Bowl XXVII, Super Bowl XXVI
Collection: 1960 Births, American Conference Pro Bowl Players, American Football Quarterbacks, American People of Irish Descent, Buffalo Bills Players, Ed Block Courage Award Recipients, Houston Gamblers Players, Living People, Miami Hurricanes Football Players, Nascar Team Owners, National Football League Players with Retired Numbers, People from Clarion County, Pennsylvania, People from East Aurora, New York, People from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Players of American Football from Pennsylvania, Pro Football Hall of Fame Inductees, Sportspeople from Pennsylvania, Sportspeople from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
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Jim Kelly

Jim Kelly
Kelly in 2010
No. 12
Position: Quarterback
Personal information
Date of birth: (1960-02-14) February 14, 1960
Place of birth: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Height: 6 ft 3 in (1.91 m)
Weight: 226 lb (103 kg)
Career information
High school: East Brady (PA)
College: Miami (FL)
NFL draft: 1983 / Round: 1 / Pick: 14
Career history
Career highlights and awards


  • USFL All-League Team (1984, 1985)
  • USFL MVP (1984)
  • USFL Rookie of the Year (1984)
  • USFL Most Outstanding Quarterback (1985)
  • USFL All-Time Team


  • Pro Bowl (1987, 1988, 1990, 1991, 1992)
  • AP First-Team All-Pro (1991)
  • AP Second-Team All-Pro (1992)
  • UPI First-Team All-AFC (1991)
  • UPI Second-Team All-AFC (1990)
  • NEA First-Team All-Pro (1991)
  • NEA Second-Team All-Pro (1990)
  • AFC champion (1990, 1991, 1992, 1993)
  • Only QB to lead team to four straight Super Bowls
  • NFL Passing touchdowns leader in 1991 (33)
  • NFL Quarterback Rating leader in 1990 (101.2)
  • AFC Quarterback Rating leader in 1991 (97.6)
  • Buffalo Bills all-time career leader(Career Wins,Pass Attempts,Pass Completions,Passing yards,Passing Touchdowns)
  • 1991 Pro Bowl MVP
  • Last Buffalo Bills quarterback to have a playoff win
  • Buffalo Bills #12 retired
  • Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee (2002)

USFL Records

  • 83 Career Passing Touchdowns
  • 5,219 Passing Yards in 1984
  • 44 Passing Touchdowns in 1984
Career NFL statistics
TDINT: 237–175
Yards: 35,467
QB Rating: 84.4
Stats at
Pro Football Hall of Fame

James Edward Kelly (born February 14, 1960) is a retired American football player, a quarterback in the National Football League (NFL) for the Buffalo Bills and in the United States Football League (USFL) for the Houston Gamblers. 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.[1]


  • Playing career 1
    • Early life 1.1
    • University of Miami 1.2
    • USFL 1.3
    • Buffalo Bills 1.4
    • "No-huddle offense" 1.5
    • Records and accomplishments 1.6
  • Career statistics 2
  • Personal life 3
  • See also 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6

Playing career

Early life

Kelly was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania,[2][3][4] and grew up about 60 miles away in East Brady. He was a standout at East Brady High School and won all-state honors after passing for 3,915 yards and 44 touchdowns.[5] After his senior year, Kelly played in the Big 33 Football Classic.

Kelly also played basketball in high school, scoring over 1,000 points with 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 play college football at Penn State University under Joe Paterno, but he was offered a linebacker scholarship instead of quarterback.[6] He went to the University of Miami, where he played an important role in helping build the program into one of the nation's best. Kelly finished his career at Miami with 406 completions in 646 attempts for 5,233 yards and 32 TDs; he was inducted into the university's hall of fame in 1992.[7]


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.'"[8]

Although he believed that team owner Ralph Wilson would not bring in the right players to build a championship team,[6] 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?"[8]

In two seasons in Houston leading coach Mouse Davis' run-and-shoot offense, Kelly 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.[9]

Buffalo Bills

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), Dan Marino and Mark Clayton (79), Peyton Manning and Reggie Wayne (69), and Drew Brees and Marques Colston (68) for touchdowns by an NFL quarterback and receiver tandem.[10]

"No-huddle offense"

Kelly's USFL jersey on display at the Pro Football Hall of Fame
Kelly's Bills jersey on display at the Pro Football Hall of Fame

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 five times in (1987, 1988, 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 are the fifth most in Super Bowl history behind Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Kurt Warner and 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, by Drew Brees in Super Bowl XLIV, by Peyton Manning's 33 completions in Denver's loss to Seattle in Super Bowl XLVIII, and most recently by Tom Brady's 37 completions in New England's victory over Seattle in Super Bowl XLIX).

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.

Including his time in the NFL and USFL, he finished with over 45,000 passing yards and 320 touchdowns.[11] In 2001 the Buffalo Bills retired his number 12 jersey.

On August 3, 2002, Kelly was inducted into the Marv Levy was Kelly's presenter at the ceremony.

Career statistics

Year Team GP Rec Att Com Pct Yds TD Int Rate
1979 Miami Hurricanes 11 5–6–0 104 48 46.2 721 5 6 108.7
1980 Miami Hurricanes 12 9–3–0 206 109 52.9 1,519 11 7 125.7
1981 Miami Hurricanes 11 9–2–0 285 168 58.9 2,403 14 14 136.2
1982 Miami Hurricanes 11 7–4–0 81 51 63.0 585 3 1 133.4
Totals 45 30–15 676 376 55.6 5,228 33 28 128.4
Year Team GP Rec Att Com Pct Yds TD Int Rate
1984 Houston Gamblers 18 13–5–0 587 370 63.0 5,219 44 26 98.2
1985 Houston Gamblers 18 10–8–0 567 360 63.5 4,623 39 19 97.9
Totals 36 23–13 1,154 730 63.3 9,842 83 45 98.0
Year Team GP Rec Att Com Pct Yds TD Int Rate
1986 Buffalo Bills 16 4–12–0 480 285 59.4 3,593 22 17 83.3
1987 Buffalo Bills 12 6–6–0 419 250 59.7 2,798 19 11 83.8
1988 Buffalo Bills 16 12–4–0 452 269 59.5 3,380 15 17 78.2
1989 Buffalo Bills 13 6–7–0 391 228 58.3 3,130 25 18 86.2
1990 Buffalo Bills 14 12–2–0 346 219 63.3 2,829 24 9 101.2
1991 Buffalo Bills 15 13–2–0 474 304 64.1 3,844 33 17 97.6
1992 Buffalo Bills 16 11–5–0 462 269 58.2 3,457 23 19 81.2
1993 Buffalo Bills 16 12–4–0 470 288 61.3 3,382 18 18 79.9
1994 Buffalo Bills 14 7–7–0 448 285 63.6 3,114 22 17 84.6
1995 Buffalo Bills 15 10–5–0 458 255 55.7 3,130 22 13 81.1
1996 Buffalo Bills 13 8–5–0 379 222 58.6 2,810 14 19 73.2
Totals 160 101–59 4,779 2,874 60.1 35,467 237 175 84.4

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

Personal life

Jim Kelly at Joint Base Balad, Iraq, 2010.

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.[12] 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.

On June 3, 2013, Kelly announced that he has been diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma, a form of cancer, in his upper jaw. He underwent surgery at a Buffalo hospital on June 7.[12] Kelly reported to news outlets shortly after his surgery that the procedure was successful and he was now cancer-free.[13] On March 14, 2014, after a follow-up test at the Erie County Medical Center, it was announced that Kelly's cancer had recurred, and that he would begin radiation and chemotherapy treatment.[14] It was announced on August 20, 2014 that doctors can no longer find evidence of cancer.[15]

On November 1, 2014, Kelly announced he had contracted MRSA within his bones, three months after being declared cancer-free. A few weeks after the announcement, Kelly said he was MRSA-free.[16]

Kelly's nephew, Chad Kelly, is the starting quarterback for the Ole Miss Rebels football team as of 2015.[17]

See also


  1. ^ Buffalo Bills 50th Anniversary All-Time Team
  2. ^ "Jim Kelly". Retrieved 20 May 2015. 
  3. ^ Buffalo Bills website
  4. ^ "NFL - Players Rosters - National Football League - ESPN". Retrieved 20 May 2015. 
  5. ^ [4] Archived November 12, 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ a b Neumann, Thomas (October 14, 2010). "Jim Kelly talks football, life, wrestling".  
  7. ^ [5] Archived November 12, 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ a b "Elway to Marino". 30 for 30. Season 2. 2013-04-23. ESPN. 
  9. ^ "Jim Kelly, Football, New Jersey Generals".  
  10. ^ [6]
  11. ^ "Hall of Famers". Retrieved 20 May 2015. 
  12. ^ a b Wawrow, John. "Former Bills QB Kelly battling cancer of the jaw". Yahoo Sports. Retrieved 4 June 2013. 
  13. ^ "'"Jim Kelly: I'm now 'cancer-free. Retrieved 19 July 2013. 
  14. ^ "Hall of Fame QB Jim Kelly's cancer returns". 14 March 2014. Retrieved 20 May 2015. 
  15. ^ "Doctor: No evidence of cancer for Jim Kelly". 
  16. ^ "Report: Jim Kelly says he has MRSA infection". USA Today. November 1, 2014. Retrieved November 1, 2014. 
  17. ^

External links

  • Official website
  • "Hunter's Hope" official website
  • Jim Kelly at the Pro Football Hall of Fame
  • Hunter James Kelly Research Institute official website
  • Career statistics and player information from • ESPN • Pro-Football-Reference •
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