Award shows are exciting because we have to wait to see who wins. Unfortunately for Hall of Fame member Jim Kelly, he did not receive that memo, or forgot, or didn’t care. His announcement that he would win the Jimmy V Perseverance Award was made at his golf tournament just before it began. According to beat writer for the Buffalo Bills Mike Rodak, Kelly said, “God willing, I’ll be there.”
The news quickly hit the Twitter machine, and the report went ablaze. ESPN had to contact Kelly’s personal assistant Trish Cavalier to clarify Kelly had not won yet. It didn’t matter as the cat was out of the bag. ESPN eventually gave in and announced on Adam Schefter’s Twitter account that the company would make an official announcement.
The V Foundation, which sponsors the Jimmy V Award, is a foundation that helps those with cancer, and is named after Jimmy Valvano, the coach of the NCAA champions NC State. Valvano changed the landscape with his speech after winning the Arthur Ashe award.
Just months before he passed, Jimmy V’s powerful words were very impactful at the award show, first stating, “Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up,” then proceeding with another profound message.
“Cancer can take away all of my physical abilities. It cannot touch my mind, it cannot touch my heart, and it cannot touch my soul. And those three things are going to carry on forever. “
According to the Washington Post, Kelly, 48, underwent surgery for his jaw in 2013. Then Kelly had additional surgery in 2014 after it spread into his nasal cavities. In 2016, he was cancer-free, but earlier this year, he announced that the disease had come back. In March, he went for a 12-hour procedure and was finally discharged in late April from a New York hospital.
Jim Kelly’s cancer journey is not unlike his football career. Drafted by the Buffalo Bills, he decided that the USFL was much more fitting. After playing for the Houston Gamblers, Kelly eventually did go to the Bills. In one stretch from 1991-1994, Kelly went to four straight Super Bowls. No other signal caller or team has ever done it before or since. Unfortunately, the Bills would lose them all.