BOCA RATON — There was a time decades ago that Mark Richt and Jim Kelly were competing with one another, both hoping to win the starting quarterback job at the University of Miami.
Today, there can be no mistaking that Richt is solidly on the same side as Kelly, who last week revealed his oral cancer had returned.
“He’s been an inspiration to me in how he’s handled everything,” Richt, the University of Miami football coach, said of Kelly, 58. “He doesn’t ask for pity, but he does ask for prayers, because he knows (the power of faith). That’s what’s most important right now.”
Richt discussed Kelly’s health to reporters following his keynote speech for the YMCA of South Palm Beach County’s 16th annual Inspiration Breakfast at the Office Depot Global Headquarters.
During his speech, Richt said that in his younger days, he referred to Kelly as “Lucky Jim” for having won the starting job at UM. The nickname became a joke, of course, because Kelly went on to become a Hall of Fame quarterback for the Buffalo Bills.
“In my story, he’s Lucky Jim, but he hasn’t had a lot of luck with what’s happening with his cancer and even the things that happened with his young child, Hunter,” Richt said, referring to Kelly’s son, who died of Krabbe disease, a degenerative disorder, at age 8 in 2005. “But part of my talk was about faith and Jim’s faith is very strong. (Wife) Jill’s faith is very strong and they truly trust God with this thing.”
Richt added, “When you know where you’re going and you know who you belong to, you can have peace in the toughest times and I don’t think Jim would mind me mentioning that.”