kelly tough

What is Kelly Tough?

With everything that’s been going on with my dad over the past year the phrase “Kelly Tough” has been used in a number of articles and interviews – as well as hashtaged on various media outlets like Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

I was asked to give a definiton of “Kelly Tough”  in every interview that I had the opportunity to do.

Soooo I thought I would share my answer with you too:

It was the first time she cried since we found out about Daddy.

I don’t think she knows how to deal with everything.

Tears welled up in my eyes as my little sister, Camryn, hugged me.

As I held her in my arms my heart longed to release the tears, but my mind reminded me to be Kelly Tough.

Kelly Tough doesn’t mean that we don’t cry.

Kelly Tough means that in that moment I was strong for someone else…. I was strong for my little sister who couldn’t bear to watch her daddy suffer.

Kelly Tough is a selfless toughness.

It’s not about being strong in your own strength.

And it doesn’t mean being strong for the sake of your own suffering.
 Being Kelly Tough means that you press on because there’s someone else out there who needs you to be strong.

For years, my dad was tackled into the turf, but he still got up.

He never quit.


Because he heard the fans cheering, and he remembered the sound of his dad’s voice saying, “Come on, son. You’re a Kelly. Be tough!”

He was determined to fight no matter how hard the battle.

Although my dad is known as one of the toughest quarterbacks to ever play in the National Football League, I’ve never witnessed toughness like that of my brother, Hunter!

I’ve never watched someone so weak be so incredibly strong.

Hunter relied on God for every breath.

Every worry, every fear, every hurt.

He couldn’t do it on his own.

He had to rely on God, completely.

He was Kelly Tough so that we could fall into the strong and mighty arms of God. Hunter was Kelly Tough so that we could rejoice with every breath he took and every time he blinked three times to say, “I love you!”

Hunter was Kelly Tough so that every child, everywhere can be tested at birth so they don’t have to suffer like he did.

Hunter was Kelly Tough to encourage my dad on THIS day… as we hear the word “cancer” for a second time… as he goes to bed every night not knowing what tomorrow will bring… as he suffers from intense pain yet still smiles when his daughters walk into the room.

Hunter James Kelly was Kelly Tough so that our family can say to the world today, “We are weak… but God is strong!!”

For my daddy…some days are harder than others to press on. I’ve never seen him this weak before.

But Jim Kelly will remain tough… for Jason, the cancer patient who had only weeks to live, for the little boy with Down Syndrome, for the Hunter’s Hope families, for the person who doesn’t think they can keep going, for the die hard Bills fan, for the city of Buffalo, for the entire Kelly family, for his wife, for his daughters.

He’s Kelly Tough.

Because in the midst of his struggles, he has surrendered to the God who holds this moment and the future.

THIS is Kelly Tough!