Jim Kelly, former quarterback of the Buffalo Bills, accepted the Jimmy V award for Perseverance Wednesday night at the Espy Awards.
The Jimmy V award, named for NC State’s men’s basketball coach Jim Valvano, is given to “a deserving member of the sporting world who has overcome great obstacles through perseverance and determination.”
As his daughters, Erin and Camryn, stood on stage alongside their dad, Jim accepted the award from former Denver Broncos quarterback, John Elway, and former Miami Dolphins quarterback, Dan Marino.
The former quarterback began his speech choked up after viewing a video of his life, which included his 8-year-old son Hunter, who died in 2005 from Krabbe Disease, a genetic disorder that affects the central and peripheral nervous systems.
“It is never easy watching video of about my son,” Jim said. “So many times I dreamt and continue to dream about my son Hunter, what he’s meant in my life. They will never stop.”
Battling oral cancer since 2013, Jim recently went through another surgery in March to remove more cancer and reconstruct his upper jaw. The 58-year-old took to the stage to look back on his life, sharing the four F’s he’s lived his life by—Fun, Faith, Family, Fans.
“My faith. My faith in the good Lord that he has plans for my life,” he said. “Through my son Hunter, we will make a difference.
“My family, wow, I don’t know what I can say,” he continued. “My daughter Erin, every single time she walked into the hospital, not one time did she ever have a frown on her face. It was always, ‘Daddy you look so good.’ She’d give me a hug. My daughter Camryn, so many times she would hug me, and I didn’t want to let her go. Even today, when she hugs me, I don’t want to let her go. And my wife Jill, you are my heart. You are my soul. You are my everything. I love you Jill.”
The Football Hall of Famer went on to acknowledge his five brothers, Buffalo Bills owners and former teammates before asking fans listening to “make a difference today for someone who is fighting for their tomorrow.”
He concluded the speech asking everyone to become a difference-maker.
“When I look across this arena, and when I talk to people – you don’t need to be a Russell Wilson, an Aaron Rodgers – to make a difference out there,” he said. “Every single person in this 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 a smile on those faces.”