Kelly was drafted in the 1983 NFL Draft, rated just behind John Elway on at least one NFL draft list. Employing the K-Gun offense known for its hurry up shotgun formations and 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, though the Bills lost all four of them. In 2002, in his first year of eligibility, he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
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.
The Buffalo Bills selected Kelly in the first round of the 1983 NFL Draft, but because of the Bills having two back-to-back 2 and 14 seasons, 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-shot offense, he threw for 9,842 yards and 83 touchdowns, completing 63% with an average of 8.53 yards per attempt but 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.
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).
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. Along with Dan Marino, Kelly was a pioneer of the mass yearly accumulation of passing yardage that is now common among NFL quarterbacks. He also rushed for 1,049 yards and 7 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.
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 son, my hero, Hunter. I love you, buddy."
Kelly continues to reside in Orchard Park, New York, with his wife and children.
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.
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Dec 20, 2007; Hunter Kelly -- the inspiration for the Hunter's Hope movement -- has passed on, but he has managed to pass the torch to others...