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Canton Bound
Jim Kelly considers it an honor to be rewarded for playing the game he loves.
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Saturday, February 2
Kelly's election makes case for other Bills
By Joe Lago

NEW ORLEANS -- Maybe the Buffalo Bills of the early 1990s won't be remembered as consummate losers. They might be remembered for Hall of Famers.

For the second straight year, a key figure of the Bills' four straight Super Bowl runner-up teams was voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Last year, head coach Marv Levy got the call. On Saturday, it was quarterback Jim Kelly's turn.

Jim Kelly
Jim Kelly is the first member of the famed QB class of '83 to make the Hall of Fame.
"When you're around all these Hall of Famers, they no longer put their number (when signing autographs). They put "HOF" and the year they were inducted," Kelly said. "Fittingly for me, mine will be 'HOF 0-2' ... I've been in that situation a few times.

"It's only fitting for me to go in as No. 2, the year 2002. But today we're No. 1."

Kelly credited everyone from his football coach at East Brady High in western Pennsylvannia to his college coach at Miami (Howard Schnellenberger) to the Bills' braintrust (general managers Bill Polian, then John Butler) for helping him become the Bills' fourth Hall of Famer.

He singled out Levy, though, as the main reason why he'll don a yellow jacket on the steps of the Hall in Canton on Aug. 3.

"The main guy that kept the Buffalo Bills together, the guy who that was able to rally us every single year from those Super Bowls was Marv Levy -- God bless him," Kelly said. "He's the guy who allowed me to be the person that I am -- being able to go out there and take total control of an offense.

"His job was on the line every single time I went out on the field. He knew if I screwed up it was going to be his head, too."

Kelly was the trigger man in the Bills' "K-gun" offense -- a no-huddle, pass-happy attack that had defenses stumbling to keep up. Signed by the Bills after throwing for 9,842 yards and 83 touchdowns with the USFL's Houston Gamblers in Mouse Davis' "run and shoot" offense, Kelly racked up 35,467 passing yards and 237 touchdown passes in 11 seasons with the Bills.

"I had fun playing football," said Kelly, the first USFL Hall of Famer. "People ask me how much fun the Buffalo Bills had during those years, and I say, 'Yeah, we had fun. You know why? Because we won -- that's why we had fun.' "

Kelly believes his teammates will be joining him soon, players like running back Thurman Thomas, defensive end Bruce Smith and wide receivers Andre Reed and James Lofton, who was a finalist this year. Also worthy in Kelly's mind: center Ken Hull ("the smartest guy I've been around on the football field) and special teamer Steve Tasker ("I tried to convince my coaches to let him be my wide receiver -- he would've been there right at the top.")

"Do you think I would've called all my own plays if I didn't have a guy like Thurman Thomas behind me or Andre Reed out to the side and, of course, James Lofton. I was blessed," Kelly said. "I had a lot of talent around me."

Joe Lago is the NFL editor for