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Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly promised to "keep fighting until the end" in an inspiring speech at Wednesday night's ESPY Awards, as he continues to recover from his latest treatment for oral cancer.
The Buffalo Bills legend was given the Jimmy V Award for perseverance at the ceremony in Los Angeles for his determination in the face of multiple fights with cancer. His struggle began when he had surgery in 2013 to remove squamous cell carcinoma in his jaw.
"I will never give up - I will keep fighting until the end," Kelly promised in his heartfelt speech.
Kelly, 58, followed his 2013 surgery by undergoing chemotherapy in 2014 when cancer was detected in his maxillary sinus. The cancer returned a third time earlier this year, requiring surgery in March to reconstruct his upper jaw after having oral cancer removed.
He was presented the award by fellow Hall of Fame quarterbacks Dan Marino and John Elway, who were part of the famed 1983 NFL Draft class with Kelly.
Marino and Elway held back tears as Kelly, who led the Bills to four straight Super Bowl appearances, urged people to make an impact in others' lives by staying positive.
"Make a difference today for someone who is fighting for their tomorrow," Kelly said. "Every single person in this room can be a difference-maker. You can be a normal person that gets up every morning and goes to work. But you can be a difference-maker, putting smiles on those faces."
Kelly also became emotional after watching an introductory video about his son, Hunter, who died at 8 in 2005 from Krabbe disease, a genetic disorder that affects the nervous system.
Kelly was joined onstage by his daughters, Camryn and Erin, whom he credited along with his wife, Jill, for helping him remain upbeat while being treated for cancer.
"My kids, my friends when they came in to see me, not once did they ever have a frown on their face,'' he said. "So I just urge everybody out there, if you have somebody out there who is suffering, it doesn't have to be cancer, it could be somebody not having a good day. What you say to them, the smile that you have on your face, that could be the difference in them making it to the next day. Remember that."
The award Kelly received is named in honor of former North Carolina State men's basketball coach Jim Valvano, who died from cancer in 1993. Valvano, who famously led the Wolfpack to the 1983 NCAA Tournament title, delivered a memorable speech at the 1993 ESPYs about perseverance only months before his death.
Kelly echoed Valvano's speech on Wednesday night.
"Always, always persevere,'' he said. "Like Jimmy V said, never, ever give up."
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