LOS ANGELES — With his daughters, Erin and Camryn, by his side and two of his toughest opponents in the NFL, John Elway and Dan Marino, on stage with him at the Microsoft Theater, East Brady native Jim Kelly had a simple message.
“Make a difference today for someone who is fighting for their tomorrow,” Kelly said in his Jimmy V Award for Perseverance acceptance speech Wednesday night at the ESPYs.
Kelly is certainly fighting for his tomorrow.
Diagnosed with oral cancer three times in the last five years, Kelly has waged an on-going battle against the disease that has ravaged his upper and lower jaw and left his speech slurred.
His message at the ESPYs was heard loud and clear, however.
There weren't many dry eyes in the audience during his six-minute speech as the cameras periodically captured reaction from the those in attendance.
Kelly referenced his son, Hunter, shown in a clip that aired before his speech.
“It is never easy watching video about my son,” Kelly said between emotional pauses.
Hunter was born with Krabbe Disease, a rare genetic disorder of the nervous system and died in 2005.
Kelly, 58, also gave a shout out to Terry Henry, his high school football coach at East Brady and one of his closest friends.
“My high school football coach, who is the reason I have a gold jacket, the reason I turned professional, the reason I am still sitting here, Terry Henry, I love you,” Kelly said.
Elways and Marino were also visibly shook by the words of the man they battled against in the AFC for more than a decade.
“They couldn't be giving this award to a better guy,” Elway said.
Read more about Jim Kelly's speech in Thursday's Butler Eagle.