Hall of Fame NFL quarterback Jim Kelly has seen his share of adversity and then some.
ESPN recognized his triumph of spirit on Wednesday by giving him an ESPY, the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance.
The retired quarterback, who led the Buffalo Bills to an unprecedented four straight Super Bowls — only to see them lose each time — is a model of overcoming adversity.
During the ESPY Awards, which are presented to some of the world’s best athletes, Kelly shared a heartfelt and inspiring video message with the audience.
Kelly’s been a cancer survivor for five years. He was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma of the jaw in 2013.
“So many times I’ve dreamt and continued to dream of my son, Hunter,” Kelly says in the video, “and what he’s been in my life. And it will never stop.”
His comment refers to the traumatic loss of his son, Hunter, who died from the nervous system disorder Krabbe’s disease back in 2005.
Kelly accepted the ESPY and gave thanks to his wife, Jill, for being by his side throughout the good times and tough times. “You are my heart, you are my soul, you are my everything,” he said.
In the video, Jill Kelly shared her faith and her reaction to her family’s tribulations. “I just prayed,” she said while fighting back tears. “I prayed that there was more to our story than our heartbreak. And that God had a plan and a purpose for all that pain that we had gone through.”
“I, at times, think, ‘OK, all the suffering, all the pain, all that’s done with, I’m fine,'” Jim Kelly also said. “But I always get thrown another curveball, and it’s to see how I react.”
“I will never give up. I will keep fighting ’til the end. Get up — you’ll be all right,” he added.
“I always get thrown another curveball, and it’s to see how I react.”
Kelly’s vow is a throwback to the award’s namesake, Jim Valvano, the late coach of North Carolina State University and the founder of the V Foundation for cancer research, who famously said at his 1993 ESPY awards speech, “Never give up.”
Kelly recently received word that “something came up” at his latest health screening and that he needs to travel to New York for surgery, as People magazine reported.
Throughout his trials, Kelly has maintained his faith and trust in God.
“[I have] faith in the good Lord,” Kelly said. “Through my son Hunter, we will make a difference.”