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Erin Kelly: Character overshadows Reed’s stats


This is the seventh in a series of stories for The Buffalo News by the oldest daughter of Bills great Jim Kelly.

The last line of my father’s Hall of Fame acceptance speech: “The toughest person I’ve ever met in my life is my hero, my soldier, my son, Hunter. I love you Buddy!”

It’s a moment etched indelibly on my soul, a moment I’ll never forget. I was with my family and a sea of Buffalo Bills fans during my father’s speech at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.

In my 7-year-old mind, the sheer volume of red, white and blue No. 12 jerseys among the thousands of fans packed into Fawcett Stadium seemed endless. With great pride and excitement I sat on the edge of my seat in the early August heat taking in all the action. I listened intently to Daddy’s every word. Before I knew it, he was talking about me swimming and how, “one day she will make our country proud.” Whenever I reflect on that moment, I can’t help but laugh because it wasn’t long after that my swim trophies and medals began collecting dust and I was out in the driveway practicing my jump shot.

As moving as his speech may have been, it wasn’t my father’s nostalgic recollection of playing with the Bills or his thanks to teammates, coaches, family and friends that people remember. It’s those last two sentences and the tears that went along with them. Those sentiments are why I believe my dad’s Hall of Fame speech will endure as one of the most memorable induction speeches of all time.

His words spoke of the impact his only son had on his life and who he became as a result. The fact that Hunter was sitting there on that day wearing his dad’s jersey mattered infinitely more than the Hall of Fame jacket or ring or all the other accolades and fanfare. His speech was a testimony to who he is more than what he had achieved. His words reflected his character, humility and toughness on and off the field. That is what people remember most – who you are, not just what you do.

Andre Reed finally was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame Saturday – a long-awaited and much-anticipated celebration. As is customary of the ’90s Bills team, they’re together, rallying to support their brother, No. 83. Yes, Andre will always be remembered for making catches that seemed impossible and scoring touchdowns that made fans jump out of their seats. More than that, Andre Reed will be remembered for his character; who he is as a man off the field. Although I never was able to witness him catch a perfect spiral from No. 12, I have watched him sit by my dad’s side in the hospital and stop by our house, just to make sure he’s doing OK. He’s a down-to-earth guy who will make you laugh uncontrollably but isn’t afraid to cry openly when he sees his teammate struggling through cancer.

Aren’t these the things you will remember about the people you look up to – the ones who mean the most? Aren’t these the things we as a community are reminded of whenever one of our players is inducted into the Hall of Fame? There is a sense of pride that comes with such an accolade – a pride that the fans have not only in the player but the team and the city as well. We come together on game day but rally even harder hoping for a solid glimpse of who these players are when no one is looking. For isn’t it the leaders, the playmakers, the fighters, the men themselves that are awarded this prestigious honor? Their achievements might put their names in the record books, but it’s the men behind the stats that we are endeared to.

My excitement and enthusiasm seeing Andre inducted into the Hall motivates and encourages me. Hopefully, one day, some of our current players will wear the prestigious gold jacket with pride, representing the Bills organization, their Buffalo fan family and our city, carrying on the legacy of leaders that came before them. But more than that, hopefully they will humbly uphold the tradition of leadership and integrity that marks a man off the field.


Erin Kelly’s Fan Journal:

  • Teddy Monte Verde

    Great write-up

  • eric

    That young woman has the wisdom beyond her years . Just a fanatastic statement from her .
    What great insight and humble words . Well Done Erin Kelly !

  • chrisbuilder23

    Wow, more school girl ramblings. Wow, a new record low, tough or toughness were only mentioned twice! Will this misery ever end?

  • attydomsalv

    These Buffalo Bills have proven themselves champions over and over again. I'd rather see what I saw Saturday and Sunday between Kely and Reed and Thurman and Bruce and Marv etc etc then any Superbowl celebration a bunch of jerks like the Cowboys could have

  • Paul Johnson

    Chrisbuilder23 I would ask myself, why are there "haters" out there of every successful person in the spotlight? If there are truly people that you admire, what do you think about the small fraction of people that are constantly trying to tear them down. That's you my friend, a hater and no matter what you write, it will only make sense to other haters. I do think you should go for it and start a Hall of Fame for parents helping their children with homework because I do that and wouldn't mind being recognized as one of the greatest in the world at it and being recognized as a great hero. But then again I'm not sure I would be able to deal with the hatters that would say I was only an ordinary parent doing what all parents are supposed to do.

    • chrisbuilder23

      Why would I care what you or someone else thinks about anyone I may admire? I don't admire them for your approval and you are welcome to say what you like.

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About the reporters

Vic Carucci returned to The Buffalo News as a Bills beat reporter in September. Carucci covered the Bills for 17 years before joining as a columnist in 1999. Prior to rejoining The News, he spent three years as a senior editor for the Cleveland Browns.

Tim Graham returned to The Buffalo News in 2011 after covering the NFL for three years at ESPN and for one year at the Palm Beach Post. Before that, the Cleveland native spent seven seasons on the Buffalo Sabres beat for The News and was president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.

Jay Skurski joined The News in January 2009. The Lewiston native attended St. Francis High School before graduating from the University of South Florida.