Jim Kelly Played in the USFL Before Finally Joining The Buffalo Bills

Published on April 12th, 2023 2:41 pm EST
Written By: Dave Manuel

Big fan of warm climate - Football star Jim Kelly. Imagine this scenario playing out in this day and age.

A quarterback is drafted in the first round of the NFL Draft.

The quarterback doesn't like cold weather, so he decides to play in the XFL instead, for a team with a warm climate.

This is exactly what happened in 1983, when Jim Kelly was drafted by the Buffalo Bills.

Much was made about John Elway not wanting to play for the Colts, but Jim Kelly also had a couple of teams that he didn't want to play for as well.

Those two teams were the Green Bay Packers and the Buffalo Bills.

The reason?

Jim Kelly didn't like to play in cold climates.

When Jim Kelly, a future Hall of Famer, was drafted by the Buffalo Bills #14 overall in the 1983 NFL Draft, he said that he had "tears in his eyes", as he didn't want to play in a city with a cold climate.

Here is where the story gets strange.

While Jim Kelly was in a meeting with the Buffalo Bills to negotiate his contract, the secretary of the Bills let him know that he had a phone call.

Kelly took the call, and on the other end was Bruce Allen, GM of the Chicago Blitz of the USFL. (apparently Allen had lied to the Bills secretary about who he really was).

Allen said to Kelly - leave the meeting and come to the USFL, where you will be able to play for your choice of teams.

You can even play in a warm climate.


Jim Kelly ended up signing with the Houston Gamblers, and would enjoy a great deal of success.

The league would fold, however, and Kelly would eventually sign with the Buffalo Bills in 1986.

The Bills retained Jim Kelly's rights and offered him the richest contract in the history of the NFL (at the time).

The Bills gave Kelly a 5 year, $8 million deal with a $2 million signing bonus.

The rest is history, as Kelly would lead the Buffalo Bills to four straight Super Bowl appearances, and would eventually join the Hall of Fame.


If it weren't for the USFL collapsing, there is a very good chance that Jim Kelly never would have played in the NFL.

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