Bills Legend Jim Kelly Mourns Death of ‘Father Figure’ and Mentor

Jim Kelly

Getty Jim Kelly watches a Buffalo Bills playoff game against the Baltimore Ravens.

Jim Kelly is paying tribute to the man who helped shape his football career from an early age and remained close with the Buffalo Bills legend long after he retired from the NFL.

Kelly took to social media on Saturday to mourn the death of college football coach Howard Schnellenberger, who took over the Miami Hurricanes program when Kelly was the starting quarterback. In a heartfelt post after the college football coach’s death was first reported, Kelly said that he considered Schnellenberger to be like a second father, someone who served as a mentor long after he left college.

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Kelly Mourns His Coach

Shortly after news that Schnellenberger had died at the age of 87, Kelly shared a picture on Instagram showing the two together during Kelly’s time as signal caller for the Hurricanes. In the caption, Kelly recalled that Schnellenberger gave him advisement beyond their years together on the football field.

“Coach Schnellenberger always was like a father figure to me. Not only as my college coach but throughout my NFL career,” he wrote. “He was there for me no matter what. I will never forget that stern military voice. I WILL , see him again.”

As ESPN noted, Schnellenberger was praised for the transformation he brought to the Miami program after taking over. The university’s administrators had considered dropping the football program before Schnellenberger came on board in 1979, but within four years he was able to bring the team to a national championship. The team would go on to win three more in the coming years under different coaches.

The Miami program honored him on Saturday, releasing a statement and posting a memorial on Twitter that said there would be no football program at the university without him.

“The loss of Coach Schnellenberger is immeasurable in so many ways for the University of Miami family,” Miami Athletic Director Blake James said in a statement, via ESPN. “He helped our University grow during a critical period of time and established a foundation for future success, on the football field and off. Our thoughts are with his family, friend, former colleagues and players, He will forever be a Hurricane.”


Kelly Fought For Schnellenberger’s Legacy

The relationship between Kelly and his former coach continued for years after the quarterback left Miami, spent time in the USFL and played out his career in Buffalo. The two remained close, with Schnellenberger attending Kelly’s charity golf event in Buffalo and Kelly sticking up for his longtime coach. As WDRB reported, Kelly penned a letter to the College Football Hall of Fame in 2015 saying that his former coach deserved to be enshrined.

Kelly wrote about the impact that Schnellenberger had on the game and on Kelly’s own life and career.

“My career would not be the same without the coaches I was lucky enough to work with,” Kelly wrote. “We all need role models and I was blessed with 4 of the greatest men who coached the game, and Howard was certainly one of them.”

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