Skip to main content

Jim Kelly gives emotional acceptance speech at ESPYS

Buffalo Bills legend Jim Kelly gave an emotional speech while accepting the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance during the ESPYS in Los Angeles on Wednesday night.

"Make a difference today for someone who is fighting for their tomorrow," Kelly said on stage. "When I look across this arena and when I talk to people and I look at people, you don't need to be a Russell Wilson, an Aaron Rodgers to make a difference out there. Every single person in the room can be a difference maker. You can be just a normal person that gets up every morning and goes to work but you can be a difference maker. Put the smiles on those faces.

"My kids and my friends, when they came in to see me not once did they ever have a frown on their face. So, I just urge anybody out there, if you have somebody out there that's suffering, it doesn't have to be cancer. It could be somebody not having a good day. It could be your mom or your dad. It could be your grandparents. What you say to them, the smile that you have on your face, that could be the difference in them making it to the next day. Remember that. Always, always persevere. Like Jimmy V said, 'Never, ever give up.'"

Kelly thanked his family and also thanked his son Hunter who died in 2005 at eight years old to Krabbie Disease. He said that Hunter taught him the definition of toughness and never giving up because he never gave up.

The Hall of Famer was diagnosed with cancer in his jaw in 2013 and underwent surgery. After doctors determined cancer had spread to his nasal cavities, the 58-year-old underwent additional treatments and had another surgery in March 2014. Kelly announced in February his oral cancer returned after being declared cancer free in 2016.

The Jimmy V Perseverance Award was named after the late college basketball coach, Jimmy Valvano, who passed away from cancer in 1993. The award is given to a "deserving member of the sporting world who has overcome great obstacles through physical perseverance and determination."

John Elway and Dan Marino, both part of the famous 1983 quarterback draft class which includes Kelly, were there to give the award.

"John, on behalf of the class of 1983 with five other quarterbacks, thank you for winning two Super Bowls for us. We appreciate that, especially me and Dan," Kelly joked with them.

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.

Related Content