James Edward Kelly was born on February 14, 1960 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Kelly was a standout in both high school football and basketball. His senior year he won all-state honors after passing for 3,915 yards and 44 touchdowns. And on the court he averaged an impressive 23 points, 20 rebounds while leading his school to the state semifinals.
Kelly was offered a scholarship to play football for Penn State, but at linebacker. He chose to attend the University of Miami instead. Smart choice, as all he did was finish his career at Miami with 406 completions in 646 attempts for 5,233 yards and 32 TDs. Check out his very first college start for Miami ironically against Penn State in 1979:
The Buffalo Bills drafted Kelly with the 14th pick of the 1983 NFL draft. Kelly was reluctant to play for Buffalo and instead signed with the Houston Gamblers of the USFL. In two seasons in Houston using a run-and-shoot offense, Kelly threw for 9,842 yards and 83 touchdowns. He was the USFL MVP in 1984, when he set a league record with 5,219 yards passing and 44 TD passes, according to Wikipedia.
In 1986 Kelly finally joined the Bills when the USFL folded. Buffalo made the playoffs in eight of Kelly's 11 seasons, including a run to four Super Bowl games that they would come up short in. Those Buffalo teams were fun to watch with their no-huddle offense and with Kelly chucking the ball to Andre Reed and Thurman Thomas running it. If not for Scott Norwood's wide right kick in Super Bowl XXV against the New York Giants, the Bills could've had one ring to show for those teams.
Check out Kelly's best career highlights:
Kelly finished his career with 2,874 completions in 4,779 attempts for 35,467 yards and 237 touchdowns, with 175 interceptions, all of which are Buffalo records. If you add in his UFL days, he has over 45,000 yards and 320 touchdowns. He was a four-time Pro Bowler as well. Kelly still holds the NFL record for yards per pass in a game, when he averaged 44 yards in a 1995 game against the Carolina Panthers. In 2002, Kelly made the Hall of Fame.
Kelly has overcome so much in his life with the death of his 8-year-old son Hunter in 2005, and now his battle with cancer in his jaw. He's the definition of perseverance. Here's to you Jim Kelly, happy birthday.