Jim Kelly is a name that is revered, admired and respected around the NFL circles and beyond. Aside from his football prowess, Jim’s tenacity, grit and positive attitude had enabled him to get through some of the most difficult life challenges a human can face. Amazingly, after every situation thrown his way, as tough as it was Jim has decided to find the positive message and bring joy and encouragement to others going through difficult times. In 1997 Jim and his wife Jill established Hunter’s Hope after their infant son, Hunter (2/14/97—8/5/05) was diagnosed with Krabbe Leukodystrophy. After battling cancer three times, Jim has stayed positive and spreads his faith in God and positive attitude to help others get through the tough times they’re going through. It was an absolute honor and privilege to catch a few minutes with this Hall of Fame Quarterback to hear about his story. Here’s how it went:
Jay Block: Despite the many life hurdles that have been thrown your way during your life, you’ve continued to stay positive, fighting to the best of your ability, and always being an inspiration to so many people. Do you ever have the opportunity to reflect on that and look around to so many of the people that you’ve been able positively influence?
Jim Kelly: Thank you for the kind words, Jay and I truly feel honoured to be able to inspire and help others who are going through difficult times. When I travel the country speaking, I meet so many other people that have been through things and relay that message to me that I’ve been an inspiration to them. I want people to know that when I hear that, that inspires me to keep fighting and to never give up. I learned that things are going to happen in your life, but it’s your attitude that can directly impact how you’ll get through it. You have to persevere through certain things and to stay strong, not only for you but for people around you.
You don’t need to be a high-profile athlete or professional to inspire others to never give up. There are so many people out there that need that smile put back on their face from a loved one, from a friend, from a family member. That smile or that hug, that “I love you”, can go such a long way for somebody that is going through a tough time.
I’ve been through a lot not only with Super Bowls, but with my son being diagnosed and passing away at an early age, and, then, my multiple battles with cancer, and the people you surround yourself with make such a difference.
I’ve been blessed to have great friends, a great family. I try to make sure that what they help me with, I try to help others with.
Jay Block: It seems that staying positive is not just a cliché but it truly has an impact on the outcome of your situation.
Jim Kelly: There’s no doubt.
I think I learned a lot about that from playing professional football. When you throw an interception, you have to learn to get past it, learn from it and move on. When you lose, you have to know how to persevere through it and move on. It’s all part of life.
Every single one of us is going to go through tough times. It’s all about your attitude. You can either sit there and let it affect you for days and days and days, or you can move on.
Jay Block: There’s been so many differences in the way the game is played from the time that you played it and how it’s been played today. How do you see it – are they taking away from the love and the real deal footballer or do you think that this is a good thing?
Jim Kelly: It’s a little bit of both.
They need to protect the player without a doubt. I think they’re learning more and more each and every year about protecting a player because of the injuries that have happened in the past.
I’m all for making sure that we do whatever we can to make the game more safe and more fair to everybody; that a call is not going to cost you a playoff game; that a call is not going to cost you a game, period. I don’t want to see too many changes, but I like what we see today, especially protecting the athlete.
Jay Block: What would you say are some of the top skills you learned from sports that actually helped you in other areas beyond sports?
Jim Kelly: Teamwork. You can’t do everything by yourself. There are times you need to lean on someone else for advice.
Be a better listener than a talker. That’s one thing I learnt from my father and from my head football coach, Terry Henry. We all like to have our opinion, best thing to do is listen before you speak.
Jay Block: Whether it’s someone going through a tough time, a life-threatening time or just life, someone comes to you and says, “Jim, give me one piece of advice to keep my head high.” What would that be?
Jim Kelly: Who are your friends? Who are the people you are surrounded by? You can’t do it alone.
We all will go through tough times, but it’s your attitude; it’s your heart to persevere through those tough times; it’s the people you surround yourself with to make sure that, if your day is not going on well, you can look to them for that extra boost in morale and the encouragement to persevere through those tough times.