Five minutes with a legend: Jim Kelly

Posted Sept. 10, 2010 @ 12:46 p.m.
Posted By Mike Beacom

Jim Kelly was the perfect quarterback for the Buffalo Bills teams of the 1980s and '90s — a tough Pennsylvania kid, who had perfect command of the offense. His intelligence allowed Buffalo to operate the K-Gun, a fast-paced attack which was every bit as frustrating for defenses as Bill Walsh's system in San Francisco. That offense, packaged with a loaded defense, helped the Bills claim four consecutive AFC titles (1990-93) — a feat no other team in modern pro football history has duplicated.

At the University of Miami (Florida), Kelly threw 32 touchdown passes and passed for more than 5,000 yards. Picked by Buffalo with the 13th overall choice of the 1983 NFL draft — the third of six quarterbacks selected in Round One — Kelly opted to play for the Houston Gamblers of the USFL instead; in two seasons he threw 83 TD passes and collected almost 10,000 yards.

When the USFL folded, Kelly finally joined Buffalo and was an immediate star, with 3,593 passing yards in 1986. In 11 years, Kelly guided the Bills to seven seasons of 10 wins or more, earned five trips to the Pro Bowl, and surpassed the 3,000-yard mark eight times. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2002.

What are you doing to stay competitive in your retirement?

I try to help out with coaching my daughter's 15-year-old basketball (team). And, of course, I'm an outdoors freak. I hunt. I fish. I travel the country trying to have a good time with my bow and my gun. It's who's got the largest buck, or who's got the biggest elk? It's the outdoors, but you still compete against your friends, too.

A lot of former players use Facebook and other social networking tools to promote what they're up to. What's your take on all of this?

I don't personally do it, but my wife does it. We're coming out with a book called, "Without a Word." She has Facebook, she does Twitter, and all that, because it is a great way of getting your word out. My son's foundation, called Hunter's Hope, has a Web site set up also.

In a sentence or two, convince me why Andre Reed needs to be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

He has the numbers. The guy is probably one of the best run-after-the-catch receivers in the history of the game — you can talk to any defensive player that played during his time. He was consistent. I think he averaged 60 or 65 catches a year back in the day. And longevity. He played for 16 years. You go across the middle against Ronnie Lott and Steve Atwater, and still play that many years and be consistent, year in and year out, you belong in the Hall of Fame.

Give me a quarterback in today's game that you're a fan of.

Brett Favre! I can't believe the guy is still playing. More so, not just the playing part, but to stay injury-free. Of course he gets beat on, but not missing any games? It goes to show the guy is one of a kind. Not many guys made like him. That's an older guy. Younger guy? Drew Brees. I love watching him play, too.

I understand you're involved in the cause against prostate cancer. Why is this something you believe is important enough for you to put your time into?

It's important because I turned 50 years old. I have a lot of friends that are 52, 54 years old and haven't had a physical in 10 years. They say, 'I feel great. I play basketball, I work out.' That's not the point. This is the time you need to do it and it's very simple. It's just a physical. You go in, you get the blood test, they send it into a lab and you get the results. It's better to do it sooner than later because one out of every six men in the United States is diagnosed with prostate cancer. We need to make sure that number decreases.

The Bills' offense you directed operated at a fast pace. What is your take on the NFL's new umpire rule?

I understand why they're trying to protect the umpire more, but if you're going to do that, pick an umpire who's in shape. A guy like Peyton Manning, who likes to run the no-huddle, quick-paced offense, you've got to have a guy who is ready to get out of the way. Don't have some oversized guy in that position, because it does hinder the offense. Plus, when I played we sometimes used that umpire as almost like a screen, or a pick, where we'd run a receiver close by him so the defensive back would run into him.

You were a young player the last time the league had a major labor dispute (1987). What advice would you give to today's players about how to handle what potentially lies ahead in 2011?

I just hope they don't get to that point. But I do hope the players look out for the retired players. I know all the players nowadays are looking at 'What is good for us now?' Yeah, that's all good and dandy … (but) they want to make sure there is something in there to protect the guys who played the game five, 10, 30, 40 years ago.

Are you happy with the direction the University of Miami program is headed in?

I'm picking them to win, 27-17, over the Buckeyes! That's my team. I'm still a big U guy.


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