Fall 2021 SS Magazine

Jim Kelly emphasizes his 'faith in the good Lord' during 2018 ESPYS speech

There could not have been a better recipient for ESPN’s Jimmy V Award for perseverance than Jim Kelly, who took home the honor during the 2018 ESPY Awards on Wednesday.

The Hall of Fame quarterback has been in and out of the hospital, undergoing surgery for oral cancer since first being diagnosed in 2013. After announcing in March, less than a year after his father passed away, that his cancer had returned, Kelly remains in recovery from a reconstruction of his upper jaw, as ESPN reported. He’s also long been an advocate for raising awareness of Krabbe disease, which claimed the life of his 8-year-old son, Hunter, in 1997.

In accepting the Jimmy V Award for his courage on Wednesday, however, Kelly was nothing but humble. Rather than tout his own battle with cancer, he used almost all of his five-minute speech to thank others — God first among them. Saying he’s “always lived by the four F’s” — fun, family, friends and fans — the Buffalo Bills legend emphasized that his journey of perseverance has been since redefined.

“The one I had but changed was ‘fun,'” he said. “Even though I still have fun, I put the one in there that means more to me now than it ever has. And that’s my faith — my faith in the good Lord that He has plans, He has plans for my life.”

Kelly went on to pay tribute to all the others who have aided in his fight with cancer, from former Bills teammates, his old high school coach, his daughters, his wife and even Buffalo fans. But he also encouraged everyone — not just those fighting cancer — to use the life they’ve been given to uplift others.

“Make a difference today for someone who is fighting for their tomorrow,” he said. “When I look across this arena, and when I talk to people, you don’t need to be a Russell Wilson or an Aaron Rodgers to make a difference out there. Every single person in this room can be a difference-maker. You can be a normal person that gets up every morning and goes to work. But you can be a difference-maker, putting smiles on those faces … If you have somebody out there who’s suffering … what you say to them, that can be the difference.”

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