NFL Hall of Fame QB Jim Kelly to Speak at Banquet
Buffalo Bills great has close ties to Louisvillians Howard Schnellenberger, Will Wolford
Louisville, Ky. – October 30, 2013 – NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly, who has strong football connections with two native Louisvillians, will be the keynote speaker at the fourth annual Paul Hornung Award Banquet, presented by KentuckyOne Health.
The Paul Hornung Award, presented by Texas Roadhouse, is given annually to the most versatile player in major college football by the Louisville Sports Commission and Paul Hornung. The winner and his family will be honored at the Paul Hornung Award Banquet presented by KentuckyOne Health on January 28, 2014, at the Galt House Hotel in downtown Louisville.
“Jim Kelly was a fierce competitor and a fantastic quarterback at Miami and in the NFL,” Paul Hornung said. “Jim will be a great addition to the Paul Hornung Award banquet, which I think has proven itself to be one of the great evenings of sports in Louisville each year.”
“Paul Hornung was bigger than life for lots of people my age who loved pro football growing up,” stated Jim Kelly. “He was a winner and he brought so many skills to the field to help his team succeed. Giving the Paul Hornung Award to the most versatile player in major college football is a great idea, and I am glad to be a part of the banquet this year.”
Kelly was the first breakout quarterback at the University of Miami, helping UM Coach Howard Schnellenberger – a Louisville native – establish the foundation of a Hurricane football dynasty in the early 1980s. Kelly led the upstart Canes to regular season wins over Penn State, Notre Dame, Florida and Florida State. He also guided Miami to a Peach Bowl win over Virginia Tech, UM’s first bowl win in 14 years, and a top-20 ranking for the first time in three decades.
“Coach Schnellenberger had a huge impact on my career. His knowledge and understanding of the game helped pave the way for my success in college football and as a pro quarterback,” Kelly added. “And I’m looking forward to connecting with my teammate, Will Wolford, who was a huge part of our success at Buffalo.”
Kelly was drafted by the Buffalo Bills but chose to play for the Houston Gamblers of the USFL. When the league folded, Kelly signed with the Bills and led that franchise to its greatest days of glory, including a record four consecutive Super Bowl appearances. A native of East Brady, Pa., Kelly played his entire NFL career with Buffalo and is the only player to have his Bills’ jersey retired. Louisville native and current St. Xavier Head Coach Will Wolford protected Kelly’s blind side as left tackle for three Super Bowls with the Bills in the early 1990s; the two have remained close ever since. Kelly retired from the NFL following the 1996 season after 11 years with the Bills.
A strong-armed passer with a “linebacker’s mentality,” Kelly virtually rewrote the Bills’ record book for quarterbacks. Only three players in NFL history had reached the 30,000-yard career passing mark faster. Eight times during his NFL career he passed for more than 3,000 yards in a season, and 26 times he passed for more than 300 yards in a game. In 11 seasons in Buffalo, Kelly was named to the Pro Bowl five times, led the Bills to the playoffs eight times and in 17 playoff game appearances he passed for 3,863 yards and 21 touchdowns.
Known as a tough competitor both on and off the football field, nothing could prepare Kelly for the battle his family would face when his only son Hunter was diagnosed with a fatal disease called Krabbe Leukodystrophy. Hunter celebrated eight years of life and was laid to rest on August 5, 2005. Kelly and his wife, Jill, established Hunters Hope Foundation, which continues to changes lives of children and families all over the world. Kelly is the author of Armed and Dangerous, Playbook for Dads and co-author of Without a Word: How a Boy’s Unspoken Love Changed Everything.
In June 2013, Kelly announced he had squamous-cell carcinoma of the upper jawbone. He had surgery shortly after his announcement and is currently cancer free. In addition to his professional and charity work, Kelly is an avid outdoorsman. He also owns several businesses – Jim Kelly Inc., MyFanClip, Jim Kelly Football Camp, Kelly for Kids Foundation and Hunter’s Hope Foundation. Kelly lives in Buffalo with his wife and two daughters.