In the spring of 1983, the NFL may have been at its weakest point. The previous season had been marred by a players strike, the upstart USFL was poaching star players and Al Davis was successfully suing the league. But the momentum began to change on April 26, 1983 — the day of the NFL Draft — when a new generation of superstars, including Bills Hall of Famer Jim Kelly, was poised to enter the league.
Six quarterbacks were selected in the first round of that draft — still the most ever. ESPN’s “Elway to Marino” explores this landmark draft in a 30 for 30 film through the eyes of the players, head coaches, general managers, team owners and agents who participated. The piece airs tonight at 8 p.m. on ESPN.
Agent Marvin Demoff, who represented both John Elway and Dan Marino, and kept a diary in the months leading up to the most dramatic draft day in NFL history. We’ll learn the inside story of draft picks and back room deals, and see the tension between future Hall of Famers and the teams that selected them.
Kelly was selected 14th overall by Buffalo in that 1983 Draft, but opted instead to play for the Houston Gamblers of the USFL rather than the Bills, a team he initially had no desire to play for.
After two successful USFL seasons, Kelly contemplated his options. The USFL was in dire straits financially with teams relocating, merging or simply disbanding, and Buffalo held his rights. Kelly’s father also had a simple wish since the day the quarterback was drafted by the Bills.
“My dad was kind of bummed out when I went to the USFL because all he ever wanted to do was grab all his buddies from East Brady and take a three-hour drive up to Buffalo in an R-V motor home,” said Kelly. “That’s all my dad wanted to do. He didn’t care who I played for as long as it was close enough for him to drive and see my home games.”
Kelly soon reached an agreement with the NFL club that drafted him.
“I remember after Mr. Wilson’s position was clear we negotiated everything on a contract,” said Kelly. “And the best decision of my life proved to be the day I signed with the Buffalo Bills.”
Ken Rodgers, director of the 30 for 30 series special on the 1983 draft, joined the John Murphy Show to talk about some of the stories behind the historic draft picks and can be heard below.
Posted in Inside the Bills