Jim Kelly

 Jim Kelly

James Edward Kelly (born February 14, 1960) is a former American football quarterback in the NFL for the Buffalo Bills and in the 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 whereJohn Elway was first pick. Employing the K-Gun offense (also known as the red (read) gun offense, a shotgun variation of the run and shoot offense), known for its hurry-up 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 .

Jim 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.[4]

Playing career

[edit]East Brady High School

Kelly 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.[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 in his high school basketball career and had six 30+ point games. As a senior he led East Brady to the basketball state semifinals and averaged 23 points and 20 rebounds.

[edit]University of Miami

Kelly wanted to attend Penn State under Joe Paterno, but he was not offered a quarterback scholarship, instead offering him a scholarship at linebacker. [6] His brother, Pat, already an NFL player, advised Jim to look for a school offering a quarterback scholarship instead. He went to the University of Miami. At Miami, he played an important role in helping build the University of Miami 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.[7]


The Buffalo Bills selected Kelly in the first round of the 1983 NFL Draft, but because of the Bills’ poor attendance and the cold weather, he instead signed with the Houston Gamblers of the rival United States Football League. In two seasons in Houston, he led 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.[8]

[edit]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 TD’s 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/Receiver tandem.[9]

[edit]”No-huddle offense”

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.

[edit]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 expansionCarolina 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 (19871990,1991, and 1992).

In his four Super Bowls, Kelly completed 81 of 145 passes for 829 yards and 2 touchdowns, with 7 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).

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 7 touchdowns.

Including his time in the NFL and USFL, he finished with over 45,000 passing yards and 320 touchdowns.[10] In 2001 the Buffalo Bills retired his number 12 jersey.

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 featuredJohn StallworthDan HamptonDave Casper, and George Allen. Fellow Hall-of-Famer and former head coach, Marv Levy, was Kelly’s presenter at the ceremony.

[edit]Career statistics


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
Career 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

[edit]Personal life

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 Krabbes’ patients has increased national awareness of the disease. Kelly 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.

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,” said Kelly, 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.

Since 1988, Jim Kelly has been running 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 now over 500 campers a year. This camp provides teaching from experienced coaches and previous players from all over the country. Jim even participates in various drills with the participants.

Kelly has expressed interest in being, at least in part, owner of the Buffalo Bills when current owner Ralph Wilson no longer holds the title to the franchise. He has committed to doing what he can to keep the Buffalo Bills in Western New York.[6]

Kelly is the uncle of Chad Kelly, a highly rated high school quarterback prospect and punter who has committed to the Clemson Tigers football team.[11]

Posted on: NFL Passers

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