The news naturally came as a shock to Jim Kelly's former teammates as much as it did to Bills fans Monday when the Hall of Fame quarterback announced that he had cancer. Though the men that once played with Kelly would be the first to attest that he's one of the toughest people they've ever come across, they know bone cancer is something that challenges even the strongest. That's why they're committed to rallying around the man that led them on the football field.
"This will be our turn to make sure that we're there for him with whatever he needs," said Phil Hansen. "So this will just be a payback for all the great years and great things he's done and the great friendship he's had with the rest of us players."
Kelly's word was his bond with his teammates. There wasn't a time where he failed to take on a leadership role on or off the field. And though the quarterback is committed to taking his latest challenge in life head on, those that played with him realize it's time to stand alongside the man that did so much for those teams and has since done even more for children's charities.
"He cuts a wide swath through life," said Steve Tasker. "He never forgets anybody. He's truly gifted in that respect. He's got friends that he's had for decades, who he just met on the spur of the moment. He doesn't forget people and for that people love him. That's why Buffalo loves him, that's why I love him. That's why he's been my friend for 25 years. He's a teammate in life, not just on the football field. He's a leader in life as well. People want to join him. So now it's time for us to help him in any way we can and be his teammate, which is what I think all the guys are trying to do."
Kelly's 'never quit' attitude, which was embodied by the Bills teams he was a part of in the early 90's, has his teammates convinced that the same approach will be taken with his bone cancer.
"He's such a resilient guy," said Andre Reed. "That's been our motto forever in what we did. And his family has always been 100 percent behind him. He's got the support and Jim will be okay. He'll be alright."
"He didn't get the reputation as the toughest guy ever to play quarterback for no reason at all," said Bills former GM Bill Polian. "So if anybody can overcome this Jim can."
"He will fight through it and that's the only way he knows to go," said Hansen. "In football terms he'll be the guy at the bottom of the pile. That's the way he is and that's why he's been so successful in everything he does and why he'll be successful in competing against this as well."