Hall Of Fame Weekend Highlights with Jim Kelly
FIGURING IT OUT
Jim is an NFL Hall of Fame quarterback who led the Buffalo Bills to the playoffs eight times, including four Super Bowls. Though the Bills never clinched the coveted Super Bowl trophy, Jim says that the losses were both a blessing and a curse. They were a blessing because he was living a great life as a professional football player but they were a curse because losing wasn't fun. Jim says that character is revealed most clearly in the losses of our lives. Trials and challenges in life reveal and build our ability to persevere.
In 1997, Jim and Jill were excited about the arrival of their son, Hunter. A few weeks after he was born, Hunter was diagnosed with Krabbe Leukodystrophy, a fatal genetic disease that affects the central nervous system. Doctors said he would live a short time. Though Hunter defied medical odds and lived long enough to see the Bills retire his dad’s number and witness Jim’s induction into the Hall of Fame, Hunter passed away when he was eight. "Hunter taught me what's most important in life," says Jim. "God used his life to reveal my weaknesses and His strength." Shortly after Hunter’s passing, Jim and Jill went through a difficult time in their marriage. "It was the suffering in my life, losing Hunter and almost losing my marriage to Jill, that ultimately created in me deep personal change." Jim committed his life to the Lord in 2007. "Christianity wasn't the magic bullet to a perfect life, but it is the source of my hope and identity," says Jim. He says it took him awhile to get a full grasp but says he continues to be a work in progress. "As a young man, for me, it was losing four Super Bowls and coming back each year to try again….God would challenge us through Hunter’s life and death….He would challenge us through moments in our marriage when I didn’t think we would make it. Sometimes I responded in the right ways, sometimes I didn’t. But the more I reflect on it, the more I think losing those Super Bowls prepared me, uniquely for what God knew I would go through later."
Jim and Jill founded Hunters Hope Foundation to raise awareness about Krabbe disease and other leukodystrophies.
PARENTING KIDS IN THE GAME OF LIFE
Jim says being a father is the world’s most important job. In his weeklong football camps, he see more than 600 kids every year. "Kids today are easily discouraged. They're rarely grateful and not goal oriented." He believes it all starts with the parents. "We need to lead them in the right direction,” says Jim. The lessons he shares aren't groundbreaking. Jim says they're timeless principles like humility, hard work, perseverance and teamwork. "It seems like many of these principles are fading away in our society, and I think it's our job as a father to preserve them and pass them along to our children."
He says it’s important that parents take a hands-on role with whom their kids are spending time. "Show me your friends, and I’ll show you your future," says Jim. He believes kids have it so much harder today because of the media and nonstop attention on celebrities. At football camps, Jim takes time to teach kids about the importance of a giving a firm handshake, associating with the right people, living with passion and learning to persevere. "We teach football," says Jim. "But we give them chalk talks." Jim starts each chapter of his book with a letter to Hunter and ends each chapter with a letter to his teenage daughters.