Great Speakers from the ESPY Awards: Jim Kelly

“Make a difference today for someone who is fighting for tomorrow.” 

-Jim Kelly

We’ve heard—and written about—some great speeches over the years that were delivered at the ESPY Awards, the annual summertime ceremony honoring significant moments and important people from the world of sports. What we consistently notice from this event is how award winners motivate and inspire their audience year after year by sharing their real selves and telling their often-emotional stories. We appreciate getting to know athletes of the past and present in street clothes—beautiful ones—rather than uniforms.

Our blog posts this month will focus on the moments from this July’s ESPY awards that we found moving, funny, and inspiring. Let’s begin with the presentation of this year’s Jimmy V Perseverance Award (named in honor of the late North Carolina State basketball coach Jim Valvano, who famously said “Never Ever Give Up!”) to legendary Buffalo Bills QB Jim Kelly.

Kelly, a motivational speaker who has worked extensively with young people, has encountered some challenges in his life. His son Hunter suffered from Krabbe’s Leukodystrophy, a genetic nervous system disorder with no treatment and no cure; Hunter outlived doctors’ expectations by living for eight years, and he passed away in 2005. Kelly and his wife Jill started Hunter’s Hope to encourage genetic testing and to raise awareness about Leukodystrophy.

Today, Kelly himself fights oral cancer, a disease that has visibly taken its toll on him. Yet we found him to be inspirational at the ESPYs, choosing not to focus on his own situation but rather on the power that people have to help and support others who struggle with disease through encouraging words, smiles and hugs. He brought his authentic self to the stage, along with a few tears, as he thanked those who helped him along his journey, and challenged his audience to reach out, saying “everyone’s able to make a difference.”

When you watch his speech, and perhaps the interview he conducted at his football camp, you’ll find a humble man of great faith who is still able to motivate a crowd, despite the fact that one hour before the event, he wasn’t sure he felt well enough to attend. He showed us that presenters don’t have to be feeling 100% (like we say at EMS: no one really cares how YOU feel) in order to make an impact.

We’re pleased to share Jim’s story, and invite you to see for yourself a great speaker who smoothly connects with athletes, reporters, kids and anyone lucky enough to hear his message.

Click here to see Jim Kelly’s ESPY Awards speech

Click here to watch Jim Kelly’s interview at his football camp

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