Orange and black. Purple and gold. High school colors are one of the defining characteristics of small communities.
, a 2002 inductee to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, wore orange and black in high school as an East Brady Bulldog in East Brady, Pa. Two decades ago the high school merged with Karns City High School, the Bulldogs’ long-tenured rival.
Kelly returned home last week to be honored as part of the “Hometown Hall of Famers™” program. Orange and black décor melded with the purple-and-gold-garbed student body, equally embracing Kelly as a member of their collective community.
“We take great pride in calling Karns City a hometown for ,” said Eric Ritzert, superintendent of the Karns City Area School District. Joining Ritzert on stage to welcome home Kelly were Brock Richards from the Pro Football Hall of Fame Enterprises, local Allstate agency owner David Jones and Terry Henry, who is Kelly’s close friend and former high school coach.
“When I was at East Brady, I had a gifted player in ,” Henry said. “Jim always wanted to be a professional player, and with a lot of hard work and sacrifice, he was able to leave a Hall of Fame legacy for all of us.”
Kelly entered the gymnasium donning his gold Pro Football Hall of Fame jacket through a gauntlet of football players and cheerleaders. His message for the students was simple.
“We all go through things in life, and they’re not always good things. Too many people give up,” Kelly said, alluding to his own past injuries and Super Bowl defeats. “You can’t give up. It’s what you do about it that counts. Set goals. Set dreams.”
Kelly also expressed his gratitude to Karns City High School for welcoming residents of East Brady into their community. After reminiscing of rival games between the schools, Kelly shared “If there was any place I’d choose for East Brady students to go, it would be right here in Karns City.”
The Hall of Fame quarterback and his former coach unveiled a bronze plaque highlighting Kelly’s legacy, which will be placed in Karns City High School. “Today’s plaque dedication forever links Karns City High School and the communities of Karns City and East Brady to the Pro Football Hall of Fame” said Richards. “It’s an honor to be here to help celebrate the great in the community where it all began.”
A quarterback back from the University of Miami, Kelly was a first-round draft pick of the Buffalo Bills
in the 1983 NFL Draft
, although he decided to spend two seasons playing for the Houston Gamblers of the United States Football League before joining the Bills in the NFL. During his 11 seasons in Buffalo, Kelly virtually rewrote the Bills’ record book for quarterbacks. Kelly led the NFL in passing in 1990, the same year he reached a 101.2 passer rating becoming only the fifth quarterback to maintain a rating over 100 since the system was introduced.
Kelly led the Bills to 17 playoff game appearances including four consecutive Super Bowls. He recorded 35,467 career passing yards and 237 touchdowns, and his 84.4 passer rating ranked sixth all-time at the time of his retirement. The Buffalo Bills have retired Kelly’s number 12.
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