Jim Kelly was the most prolific passer in Buffalo Bills’ history and one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history. He led the Bills to four straight Super Bowls, and, while they won none of them, they would not have been there without Kelly.
But Kelly was one of the most prolific passers in USFL history, too. Before joining the Bills, he spent two seasons with the USFL Houston Gamblers, where he threw 85 touchdown passes for nearly 10,000 yards and, under the direction of offensive coordinator “Mouse” Davis, led the franchise to a single-season record of 618 points in 1984.
The Gamblers and Davis were ahead of their time, with a Run-and-Shoot offense that was wide open, pass-heavy and so effective that it was later adopted as the base offense for the NFL Detroit Lions, Atlanta Falcons and Houston Oilers.
“It was awesome,” Kelly told the Talk of Fame Network of his USFL experience. “It was so much fun. It was really where I learned the passing game.”
Kelly chose the Gamblers over Buffalo, despite the Bills making him the 14th pick of the 1983 NFL draft. In his two years in the USFL, he not only led the Gamblers to the playoffs but became the league’s equivalent of Dan Marino — who, it so happened, was drafted the same year (1983) as Kelly and who played his pro ball in the same city (Miami) where Kelly went to college (University of Miami).
“In my two years at ‘The U,’ I didn’t really throw a lot,” Kelly said. “I mean we did, and we didn’t. I really only played two and a half years (there), so I learned the passing offense with Mouse Davis doing the Run-and-Shoot offense.
“To be honest with you, I had nothing growing up, and, all of a sudden, they (the Gamblers) give me all this money. I had three of my brothers moved in with me down in Houston. First beautiful home we ever owned.
“I took care of my brothers. I took care of my Mom and Dad. And I invested my money very smartly. I had smart brothers around me. And, even though we had a blast, it was really where I learned the game of football.”