One is a Hall of Fame quarterback who played in four Super Bowls for a notoriously downtrodden sports city.
The other is an NFL running back who just had a productive sophomore season but also missed the playoffs in a sports city that can give Boston a run for its money as “The City of Champions.”
You’d think that they wouldn’t have much in common, but the two actually share one of the strongest bonds imaginable.
Both Buffalo Bills legend Jim Kelly and Pittsburgh Steelers Pro Bowler James Conner are cancer survivors.
When their paths crossed during Pro Bowl week in Orlando, Florida, on Thursday, an iconic and inspirational image was born in an instant.
— Buffalo Bills (@buffalobills) January 24, 2019
What may have seemed like standard social media fare is an awesome picture for several reasons.
First, Kelly’s wife, Jill, commented on the image with some powerful words.
“These two know the game of football. And they know cancer,” she wrote. “Superstars and survivors…NEVER GIVE UP! Another Pro Bowl highlight and another reason to cheer for the AFC.”
Second, the picture showcases two men who have encountered cancer at very different stages of their lives but are standing strong nonetheless.
Kelly was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma, a form of cancer, in his upper jaw long after his playing days were over. He revealed the diagnosis in 2013.
Conner, meanwhile, revealed that he was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2015, long before he played a single NFL snap.
Both exhibited the utmost courage while dealing with their respective diagnoses.
“My kids, my friends when they came in to see me, not once did they ever have a frown on their face,” Kelly said at the 2018 ESPYs. “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. It could be your mom or your dad. It could be your grandparents. 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. Always, always persevere. Like Jimmy V said, never, ever give up.”
“When I heard I got cancer, I was a little scared,” Conner told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in 2015. “But fear is a choice. I chose not to fear cancer. We’re going to fight, and we’re going to beat this thing.”
Kelly’s playing days may be long behind him, but with mercurial Steelers star Le’Veon Bell all but gone, Conner should get plenty of opportunities to make the Pro Bowl year after year.
If that means the world can get more of Kelly and Conner sharing their positivity with everyone battling cancer around the world, it would be awesome to see.
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