BATAVIA, N.Y. (AP) — Jim Kelly intends to deal with the cancer found in his upper jaw bone much like the Hall of Fame quarterback has approached many of the challenges in his life.
"You have to confront them head on. And this is just another one," Kelly said Monday after revealing he's been diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma.
Kelly drew upon his family, faith and perseverance when facing major hurdles. Kelly leaned on those strengths to help overcome the death of his son, Hunter, and of his mother, and whatever obstacles stood in his way on the football field.
"I'm down at the bottom. But I will rise to the top again," Kelly said. "I am extremely confident in my road to recovery. I plan to tackle this challenge head on, as we Kellys always do."
Informed of the diagnosis two weeks ago, Kelly called the prognosis for recovery "very good." He said tests show the cancer is isolated to the jaw.
Doctors plan to remove part of Kelly's jaw during an operation at a Buffalo hospital on Friday. It won't be determined until after surgery whether he will require chemotherapy
"We caught it in time," the 53-year-old Kelly said. "It's just another challenge for me and I know I'll beat it."
The announcement was made shortly before the start of the former quarterback's 27th annual Kelly for Kids charitable foundation's celebrity golf tournament.
The news of Kelly's condition immediately drew support from those attending the tournament.
"The first thought is you say a prayer that everything works out OK," said Bill Polian, former general manager of the Bills, Panthers and Colts. "Secondly, he didn't earn a reputation as the toughest guy ever to play quarterback for no reason at all. So if anybody can overcome this, Jim can. He takes challenges head on."
Receiver Andre Reed, Kelly's favorite target, called the quarterback a "tough dude."
"Jim's a fighter. We think he'll be OK. We're all in his corner," Reed said. "He's such a resilient guy, and that's been our motto forever, in whatever we did.
"He's got the support, and Jim will be OK."
Kelly spent 11 seasons with the Bills before retiring following the 1996 campaign, and has since made Buffalo his home. Known for his fearless, swashbuckling style, Kelly was the face of Bills teams that made four consecutive Super Bowl appearances in the early 1990s, only to lose them all.
Inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2002, Kelly still holds nearly every significant career franchise passing record: 35,467 yards, 237 touchdowns and 26 300-yard games.
News of Kelly's condition also attracted many well-wishers from around the world on social media. The term, "PrayersForJK," became popular on Twitter.
"I LOVE JIM KELLY," Kelly's teammate and Hall of Fame running back Thurman Thomas posted on his Twitter account.