RENO, Nev. Hall-of-Fame quarterback Jim Kelly, whose mastery of the no-huddle offense led the Buffalo Bills to an unprecedented four straight Super Bowls, is often mentioned as a potential NFL coach. And Kelly would consider taking the job except for one thing.
And it's an unequivocal deal-breaker.
"I like to hunt," shrugs Kelly.
He explained, "My wife confronts me about it and says 'the Bills need you' and 'you'd be a great coach.' I told her that if football was a spring and summer sport, I'd do it in a heartbeat. But in the fall I like to hunt. I think she understands how important hunting and the outdoors are to me, but she still tells me I'm selfish."
Kelly may refer to himself as an "outdoor freak" and "Yankee redneck" and other self-deprecating nicknames but "selfish" he is not.
His love of hunting was the inspiration behind their son's given name: Hunter. The boy passed away in 2005 at age 8 from a disease that could have been prevented, Kelly says, if only he'd had adequate screening for diseases as a newborn.
Kelly's life is now devoted to lobbying states for better infant screening by working through a foundation that he helped create, called Hunter's Hope Foundation.
Kelly also is a new national spokesperson for Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) Outdoors. As a man of faith as well as civic service, Kelly is helping FCA further its mission to promote Christian principles. FCA has long enjoyed a strong presence on school campuses nationwide. Now the FCA Outdoors program is introducing conservation and stewardship of the outdoors as a natural extension of Christianity.
An avid elk hunter, Kelly is the speaker at a special prayer breakfast at this week's Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation annual Elk Camp.
He took time to visit with us for our Six-Point Bull Session:
Point 1: What keeps you busy these days?
Kelly: My No. 1 priority is Hunter's Hope Foundation and raising awareness of the importance of childhood screening for preventable diseases. When someone comes up to me with their child and says 'my son wouldn't be here if it weren't for you,' that's so rewarding to me.
I still work for the Buffalo Bills as an ambassador for the corporate side of the business. I help coach my daughter's basketball team. And I also run a lodge in upstate New York called Hunters Haven. And, every chance I get, I hunt and fish.
Point 2: Talk about your hunting background. Did you grow up hunting? How important are the outdoors to you today?
Kelly: I did not start hunting until later in life. When I was a kid growing up in Pennsylvania, my dad worked at a steel mill and we didn't have the means to buy guns or take off and go hunting. But I loved being outdoors. I built treestands and ground blinds in the woods and pretended that I was hunting.
When I got out of college and signed a contract to play pro football in the USFL, the first thing I bought was a Remington 1100 shotgun and a Remington .30-06. Today I love to hunt turkey, deer, elk, bear and just about everything else. I've even been on a couple of safaris in Africa.
Point 3: Does your affinity for elk hunting supersede other outdoor pursuits? What's been your most memorable elk hunt?
Kelly:I killed a six-point bull in New Mexico and that's actually the only bull elk I've taken. I've had opportunities, especially while bowhunting, to shoot smaller bulls but I'm content to not shoot another elk unless it's bigger than the one I've got. Turkey hunting is my passion because I love the thrill of calling them in. What I love about elk hunting is its similarities to turkey hunting. When you call to a bull elk and it comes in ripping things apart and sounding like a herd of buffalo coming at you, it's exciting!
Point 4: How does a career football player, who also is an avid sportsman, reconcile his profession with his drive to hunt each fall?
Kelly: To be honest, that was the hardest thing for me, and that's a big reason why I'm not an NFL coach right now.
Point 5: How do mainstream sports fans react when they find out you're a hunter? Should "conservationist" fit into the mix when people talk about Jim Kelly?
Kelly: Each week, I do a local call-in radio show called "Under the Helmet" and, frankly, we talk about hunting as much as we do football. People know I'm a hunter and it's never been an issue. As far as being a conservationist, I take a lot of pride in allowing game animals to mature and reach their full potential. If I have a chance to take an animal that's not quite the trophy I'm looking for, I'm content to let it go. Someone else can take it, or maybe that five-point bull that I let walk away will be a big six-point bull next year.
Point 6: If you were going to assemble an elk-hunting team from NFL players, who would you draft?
Kelly: I'd put Brett Favre on there. In fact, he and I had an elk hunt planned and paid for last year before he decided to go back and play another year. We'll get it done as soon as he retires. Ben Roethlisberger tells me that he wants to go hunting. I just talked with Dan Marino the other day and he said that he'd like to try hunting. Other than that, I don't keep up with football players who hunt. I'm sure there are lots, but for me, hunting is more about being with my friends. It's all about my friends.