American Football Wiki
Jim Kelly
Personal Information
Jersey #(s)
Born February 14 1960 (1960-02-14) (age 61)
Career information
Year(s) 19861996
NFL Draft 1983 / Round: 1 / Pick: 14
College Miami
Professional teams
* Buffalo Bills (1986-1996)
Career stats
TD-INT 237-175
Passing Yards 35,467
Passer Rating 84.4
Career highlights and awards

James Edward Kelly (born February 14, 1960) is a former American football quarterback in the NFL for the Buffalo Bills and the USFL's Houston Gamblers.

Kelly was the third quarterback drafted in the 1983 NFL Draft, the same draft class where John Elway was first overall. Employing the K-Gun offense known for its hurry up shotgun formations, used by later teams like Peyton Manning's Indianapolis Colts, and leading one of the great NFL scoring juggernauts in the Buffalo Bills, Kelly led the Bills to four consecutive Super Bowls in 1990, 1991, 1992, and 1993. In 2002, in his first year of eligibility, he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Playing career

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. 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.

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. 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 team 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 in 1992.[6]


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, running 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 saw a snap with the Generals.

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 4 consecutive Super Bowl appearances and 5 divisional championships from 1989 to 1995. Buffalo made the playoffs in 8 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.[8]

"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.) 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.

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 Carolina 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 (1987, 1990, 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.

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 featured John Stallworth, Dan Hampton, Dave Casper, and George Allen. Fellow Hall of Famer and former head coach, Marv Levy, was Kelly's presenter at the ceremony.

Personal life

Kelly's nephew, Chad Kelly, is committed to Clemson University as quarterback.

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; a loss that affected Kelly deeply.

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 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 at the Buffalo Bills facilities. It's for kids between the ages of 8 and 18. It started with 325 campers in its first year, 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 kids.

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.