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Buffalo Bills legend Jim Kelly to receive ESPY Award tonight; needs medical checkup next month

He just wants to eat ribs, but that’s on hold for now.

Legendary Buffalo Bills quarterback Jim Kelly will receive the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance tonight at ESPN’s annual ESPY awards. Before heading to Los Angeles, he kicked off his Rochester-area football camp and spoke with reporters.

During a talk with reporters from St. John Fisher College in Pittsford, NY, Kelly said “something came up” and he’s heading to New York City during the second week of August for a “checkup”. He did not provide more specifics.

In March, Kelly had cancer removed from his jaw and a full upper jaw reconstruction in an attempt to alleviate pain from earlier jaw cancer surgeries.

“Right now it’s just a checkup,” Kelly said. “It will be a checkup, but how long will I be there [before] check out? We’ll see. I still have a mouth full of stitches. I’m sure they’re going to pull all of those out.”

He also detailed some of the dietary struggles he has had to endure since his jaw surgery.

“I’m not sure what’s going on,” Kelly said of his upcoming checkup. “I have some things that I want to have looked at, and then we’ll go from there. I don’t know whether I’m going to be here for two days, four days or in and out. And then hopefully I pray when September has rolled around that I can finally bite into a piece of meat and not soup every day.”

Kelly first underwent surgery in 2013 to treat jaw cancer before using radiation to treat the disease in his sinuses in 2014. He was declared cancer-free in 2014 but it returned this past winter on the other side of his jaw.

The ESPYs are tonight, where Kelly will accept an award named for another sports legend who battled cancer. Jim Valvano gave a rousing speech at the ESPYs in 1993 encouraging people to persevere.

“Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up,” said Valvano.

Kelly and his years-long fight against cancer is the embodiment of that fight.