Jim Kelly, Hall of Fame NFL quarterback and inspiration to many, has experienced more trials than most will in an entire lifetime. The 58-year-old devastatingly lost his young son years ago and has faced multiple bouts with cancer, yet his faith stays unwavering.
On Wednesday night Kelly was awarded the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance at ESPN’s ESPY Awards ceremony.
The retired quarterback is a living embodiment of perseverance, overcoming adversity time and time again.
Whether it was losing his son, battling cancer or leading the Buffalo Bills, to four straight Super Bowls only to lose, he has always persevered forward.
The ESPY Awards are held each year to honor the best athletes around the world, and the Jimmy V Award is only given to the most exceptional of these individuals.
The legendary athlete accepted the award Wednesday night, sharing a heartfelt message of faith and perseverance as he stood on stage alongside his two daughters.
“So many times I’ve dreamt and continued to dream of my son, Hunter, and what he’s been in my life. And it will never stop,” he said.
Kelly and his wife tragically lost their son Hunter in 2005 when he died from Krabbe’s disease, a nervous system disorder. The Kellys created Hunter’s Hope Foundation when their son was born in 1997, which had raised millions of dollars to go towards Leukodystrophy research, as well as family care, education and awareness efforts.
Kelly accepted the award, crediting his “four fs'” mantra for changing his life. The “four f” mantra once stood for “fun, family, friends, and fans,” but he has replaced “fun” with “faith.”
“My faith in the good Lord, that he has plans; he has plans for my life. Through my son Hunter, we will make a difference,” he said.
Kelly thanked his family, mentioning his wife and two daughters, for their endless support.
“My heart, you are my soul, you are my everything,” the retired quarterback told his wife.
Kelly was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma of the jaw in 2013 and had been cancer-free up until this past spring, when he announced that he was “shocked and deeply saddened” that the cancer had returned.
Kelly ended his speech encouraging his fans to go out in the world and try to make a difference.
“Make a difference today for someone who is fighting for their tomorrow,” he said. “You don’t need to be a Russell Wilson, Aaron Rodgers to make a difference; every single person in this room can be a difference-maker.”
“What you say to them, the smile on your face, that can be the difference,” he added. “Always, always persevere.”
“I love all of you, God bless. And may the good Lord continue to bless you,” Kelly concluded.
Watch Kelly’s full speech below: