Most celebrity football camps around the United States are considered a success if they've had a strong five to 10-year run. Bills Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly has more than doubled that total, which even exceeded his expectations when he got his annual football camp up and running in 1988.
"Back then I would not have thought I'd still be doing this," Kelly told Buffalobills.com. "I remember saying about 10 years ago that I'd love to do this for 20 years and here we are four years beyond that. The thing is I feel good now that I've had back surgery and I'm hoping next year I'll be back out there running around with the kids again because I miss doing that."
Kelly, who is about three weeks into his rehabilitation from back surgery, is still very hands on with the campers taking time to move from station to station and age group to age group to impart his expertise on the young players eager to master the fundamentals and techniques of the game.
His camp also teaches life lessons during his popular 'chalk talks' where more than just the 'X's and 'O's of football are discussed.
"My chalk talk definitely changes each and every year," Kelly said. "There are some basic things I still preach, but I tailor my speech to the age group I'm dealing with. When I'm talking to the juniors and seniors I talk to them about Facebook and twitter. A lot of them use that social media like toys and think they're having fun. Facebook and twitter aren't toys. They're serious now and from teaching my daughter to my nephews to the kids here at camp, I want them to understand that they have to pay attention and be careful what they send to people because it can come back to bite you."
With the younger campers the message is a bit different.
"The message for them is to listen to their parents," he said. "I always ask them how many of them have to be asked two or three times before they do something. All of their hands go up. So I tell them when you're parents ask you to do something try to do it the first time. I tell them the older they get the more they're going to realize that 95 percent of the time what your parents tell you is right. You should start listening to your parents more."
Among Kelly's more popular sayings at his camp are 'You are who you hang with' and 'Show me your friends and I'll show you your future.'
"Your future is not very bright if you keep hanging out with bad kids. They'll take you under," he said. "I tell them they have to pick good friends. Now it starts with the parents knowing who their kids are hanging out with, but if your parents are telling you these kids aren't good to hang with, then they're probably right."
Kelly's 24th annual camp is taking place this week at One Bills Drive and runs through Thursday, but much like the Bills did at St. John Fisher college with their training camp, Kelly is regionalizing his efforts as well.
Last year Kelly held his first one-day clinic on the Pittsford campus, which was well received in the Rochester area. A second annual one-day clinic will take place on July 25th.
"I'm excited about doing that clinic," Kelly said. "The first year went great and some of the kids that went to the one day clinic last year up there came to our camp here at One Bills Drive this week. And they're still going to be there at Fisher again this year."
"For 75 dollars the kids get a T-shirt, lunch and a full day of instruction," said Dennis Stupski, Executive Director of the Jim Kelly football camp. "We take a lot of the elements of Jim's football camp in Orchard Park and introduce them to Jim's expertise and get them involved. We cover all the skill positions offense and defense. We also throw in a punt, pass and kick competition with Jim's chalk talk."
Kelly knows with just one day the best approach is to equip those that attend with the kind of fundamentals that they can take home with them to refine on their own.
"I tell the kids to take what they learn with us at Fisher and use those tools, and don't go back to bad habits. Becoming a good football player starts with developing good habits with the right fundamentals and techniques so they become second nature when they play," he said. "That's what we give them. As I tell the kids it's all about doing it right the first time."
There are a few spots still available for the Jim Kelly football clinic at St. John Fisher. For more information call 716-204-0900 or log on to the Jim Kelly football camp website.