Jim Kelly laughs as he admits the kids at his camp are sometimes surprised to see how far the former Bills quarterback can still throw it.
This week marked the 34th annual Jim Kelly Football Camp at Highmark Stadium. The three-day camp started Tuesday, and the 550 participants were a record for the sold-out event.
Kelly, who is 62 and a cancer survivor, is active in the camp, throwing to kids ages 7 to 14 throughout each day.
“I still feel good,” he said. “Mouth still hurts every once in a while, doing all the talking. But overall, I love it. I really do.”
The camp has been running for more than three decades, but it was canceled in 2020 due to the pandemic. There was a camp last year, with a smaller number of campers. Tuesday brought the first full camp since 2019, and a lengthy waitlist.
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With each year, as Kelly gets older, his playing days are further removed from the campers.
“Their grandfathers and grandmothers told them about me,” he said. “It wasn't a mom and dad, it was grandfathers and grandmothers.”
But even with clear reminders of how much time has passed, Kelly is still connected to his teammates. He’s in a group text of about 10 Bills alumni that keeps up on all news surrounding the team, sometimes more somber news.
“Eddie Abramoski, who passed away, was not only a very good friend of mine, but he was my trainer, my whole career,” Kelly said. “We miss him, and we're all going back and forth with that. And then now with Kim Pegula, struggling now and praying for her.”
Kelly keeps an eye on the current Bills as well. The Bills enter the 2022 season as a Super Bowl contender, led by quarterback Josh Allen. Kelly sees a complete team.
“We have, hopefully, all the tools that we're going to need to be able to compete for that championship. And I think that's their mindset, too,” Kelly said. “They understand how good they are. Key, as we all know, is keeping number 17 healthy.
“And I just hope – I will talk to Ken (Dorsey) a little bit later on – maybe not quite as many plays calling quarterback keepers this year. We’ve got to keep him healthy. But again, it's the other guys, too. It's just not one.”
Dorsey, the Bills' offensive coordinator, gave a chalk talk to campers on Wednesday afternoon. Kelly gave Tuesday’s talk, and Steve Tasker is set to give Thursday’s chat. The talks are sandwiched between morning and afternoon football sessions, with drills and scrimmages both inside the ADPRO Sports Training Center and in Highmark Stadium.
Watching kids take the field is always a highlight for Kelly.
“When they first went on it yesterday, just how they run in, you’re like ‘Whoa!’” Kelly said. “They're looking around, and they’re on the field that Von Miller is going to be on, and (Stefon) Diggs and Josh Allen. So, for them, it's a dream come true, no doubt.”