As the media entered the ADPRO Sports Training Center for the final day of mandatory minicamp, a familiar face to the Buffalo Bills was seen by all. Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly, who is battling cancer, showed up to team facilities for the first time since undergoing radiation and chemotherapy.
Unbeknownst to the 90 players on the Bills roster, Kelly walked out on to the field after they got through stretching and talked to the team as they huddled around him. Considering all that he has been through over the past several months, it was a special moment for both he and the team.
“Like to be honest, I'm not no little girl, but that brought a tear to my eye. That's a legend right there,” said wide receiver and Buffalo-native Mike Williams. “I kept saying it every time he said a word, I said, 'legend.' It was a joy to see him out there talking and walking around, and to come and talk to us and to say the things he said about our offense, it was kind of like a joy.”
The message he delivered was an important one to head coach Doug Marrone in trying to provide perspective to where the players are at and what type of city they’re playing in. He hopes the message sinks in for his players.
“He made a good point, and it's one that we drive home with the players. Buffalo is a special place with special people in this area,” Marrone said. “Jim's message was, when he was a player here they supported him. Obviously now, fighting his battles, they're supporting him just as much, if not more, now. I think that says a lot for the people in this region. I think that's a good point and our players have to understand that.”
After delivering the message, some players said they think the team got a spark for their final session before a month-long break just by hearing and seeing Kelly speak. As he finished up his talk, the former Bills quarterback went to walk off the field but was then called back to break the huddle for the team to start the practice.
“We're with him. We're fighting through this, just like he's been there with us trying to fight through what we're going through,” Marrone remarked. “We support him and it was great for him to get out there and be amongst the team, which I think he feels comfortable about and having the strength to address them.”
While he was there watching the team go through drills, he was surrounded by Hall of Fame running back Thurman Thomas and Bills President and CEO Russ Brandon. Kelly stayed around practice for about an hour before exiting with his brother Dan.