Former Buffalo Bills quarterback and Hall of Famer Jim Kelly will be honored with the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance at The 2018 ESPYS. Kelly, who led the Bills to four straight AFC championships, was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma in his jaw in 2013. Over the past five years since his diagnosis, Jim has embodied the definition of perseverance with his spirit and fearless attitude. Kelly will accept the Jimmy V Perseverance Award sponsored by Bristol-Myers Squibb on Wednesday, July 18, at The 2018 ESPYS presented by Capital One on ABC.
Kelly began his career in 1983, when he was picked 14th overall in the first round of the NFL Draft. After starting with the Houston Gamblers, he moved on to play for the Buffalo Bills in 1986, where he famously ran their “K-Gun” no-huddle offense. From 1991 to 1994, he helped lead the Bills to four consecutive Super Bowls. In his first year of eligibility, Kelly was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2002.
In 2013, Kelly got the news that would change his life forever when he learned that he had a form of cancer in his upper jaw. After being told he was cancer-free that same year, the disease returned shortly thereafter. After many grueling years of chemotherapy and radiation, Kelly announced his oral cancer had returned in March 2018, three-and-a-half years after he was declared cancer-free.
“I am honored to receive the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance at The ESPYS,” said Kelly. “It’s humbling to now be included on the long list of inspirational and courageous recipients of this prestigious award. I’d like to thank the V Foundation and ESPN for my consideration, as well as, for all of the incredible work they do for cancer research. They truly do ‘make a difference today for someone who is fighting for their tomorrow.’”
Kelly will be the second Buffalo Bill player to receive the award – in 2008 Kevin Everett was honored after his heroic recovery from a life-threatening cervical spine injury that threatened his ability to walk again.
“Jim Kelly truly epitomizes perseverance,” said Alison Overholt Vice President and Editor in Chief, ESPN The Magazine, espnW, and The ESPYS. “We are honored to give him the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance this year as he embodies the determination, strength of character, and spirit of the award.”
Added ESPYS Executive Producer Maura Mandt: “The inspirational attitude and unparalleled positivity Jim has exhibited, throughout not only his battle with the disease but also his entire career on the field, is an example of what we should all strive to be.”
The Jimmy V Perseverance Award is given to a deserving member of the sporting world who has overcome great obstacles through perseverance and determination. In 2007, Women’s College basketball coach Kay Yow became the very first recipient of the Jimmy V Perseverance Award. Past recipients include Eric LeGrand, Anthony Robles, George Karl, Dick and Rick Hoyt, Stuart Scott, Devon and Leah Still, Craig Sager and Jarrius Robertson.
About The ESPYS
The ESPYS gather top celebrities from sports and entertainment to commemorate the past year in sports by recognizing major sports achievements, reliving unforgettable moments and saluting the leading performers and performances. The 2018 ESPYS will recognize achievements in categories such as “Best MLB Player,” “Best Team,” “Best Female Athlete” and “Best Upset.” Inspiring human stories are showcased through three pillar awards – the Arthur Ashe Courage Award, the Jimmy V Perseverance Award and the Pat Tillman Award for Service. The ESPYS support ESPN’s ongoing commitment to the V Foundation for Cancer Research, launched by ESPN with the late Jim Valvano in 1993.