MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — University of Miami alumni returned to campus this week as part of homecoming festivities. Among them was former Hurricanes quarterback Jim Kelly, who recently beat jawbone cancer.
Not only did Kelly serve as the Grand Marshal for Friday’s parade but he also acted as honorary captain for Saturday’s game against the North Carolina Tar Heels. The Hurricanes encouraged fans to wear green rather than orange in honor of Kelly. Players sported all-green uniforms with a #KellyTough sticker on their helmets.
At a pregame celebration for alumni, the Band of the Hour played the fight song as Kelly, 54, took the stage.
"The one thing that you miss as a professional athlete is an awesome band like that," Kelly said.
Before players ran through the smoke tunnel, athletic director Blake James presented Kelly with a football at the 50-yard line. Kelly did the coin toss. It marked his first UM game since 2008 when he was inducted into the Ring of Honor.
Kelly, who many credit as the first of "Quarterback U," threw for 5,228 yards and 33 touchdowns from 1979-1982. Following his collegiate career, Kelly went on to the USFL for two seasons before 11 years with the Buffalo Bills where he put together a Hall of Fame career. From 1990-93 he led the Bills to four consecutive Super Bowl appearances.
After his first bout with squamous cell carcinoma in 2013, it reappeared earlier this year. In September, Kelly’s family happily reported that he had beaten it following successful chemotherapy and radiation treatments.
"I just want to personally thank everybody from the University of Miami," Kelly said. "The people I met just in the short period of time I’ve been here today. They have come up to me and said how much of an inspiration I’ve been to them and they look at how I fight cancer, they fight it in a different way. I’ve received so many letters, emails, cards, prayer cards, blessings from so many people around the country. There’s so many people from down here. I just want to tell you one thing: You think I help you. You help me.
"No matter what you do in life, you never do it alone. When I was fighting — and I still am fighting my cancer — I looked to those cards. I looked to those emails. I looked more importantly to the prayers that everybody sent my way. I’m not out of the woods yet, but I know the good Lord has a plan for me to make a difference for other people out there, especially kids."
At halftime, University of Miami President Donna E. Shalala presented the Kelly family with a $10,000 check for Hunter’s Hope Foundation, established to address the acute need for information and research with respect to Krabbe Disease and related Leukodystrophies. Kelly’s son, Hunter, died from it at 8 years old. He was also presented a No. 12 green Miami jersey with Hunter’s name on the back in a frame.
Fans gave Kelly a standing ovation as he was introduced and by the end of his speech chanted his name. He proceeded to thank his wife and daughters before addressing the crowd, calling Saturday the beginning of putting more national championship banners around Sun Life Stadium.
"The resiliency you’ve had to continue to pray for myself and my family — God bless you guys," Kelly said. "Thank you so much. And now we’re on the right track to make sure we turn the U around."
WELCOME TO THE CLUB
During the first-quarter break, the late Jerome Brown and Russell Maryland were honored as the newest inductees of the Hurricanes’ Ring of Honor. Brown and Maryland became the 17th and 18th members, joining the likes of Edgerrin James, Gino Torretta and Bernie Kosar among others.
Brown, a defensive tackle from 1983-86, led the Canes to four consecutive New Year’s Day bowl games. Following his senior year, he became a unanimous first-team All-America selection. He was also a finalist for both the Outland and Lombardi trophies. Brown finished 10th in school history with 21 career sacks.
Maryland won national championships in 1987 and 1989. As a senior, he recorded 96 tackles, 10.5 sacks, seven tackles for a loss and 19 quarterback pressures. He also forced five fumbles and broke up two passes. Maryland captured the 1990 Outland Trophy, given to the nation’s top defensive lineman.
Redshirt senior offensive lineman Shane McDermott was tapped into Iron Arrow Honor Society, the university’s top honor, this week. He was the only football player to earn the distinction this fall.
McDermott, who is focusing on liberal studies, has started the last 31 games he has played in dating back to his sophomore season.