Kelly leads Hall of Fame class

Aug. 2, 2002 at 8:23 PM
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CANTON, Ohio, Aug. 2 (UPI) -- Jim Kelly, the only quarterback to take his team to four straight Super Bowls, has turned the Pro Football Hall of Fame into his personal playground.

The former star of the Buffalo Bills has taken over two hotels in nearby Akron and expects about 1,200 close friends from upstate New York and his native western Pennsylvania to attend induction ceremonies Saturday.

Kelly led the Bills to an unprecedented four consecutive trips to the Super Bowl from 1990-93, losing each time. But the bitter losses did not prevent him from being elected to the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility.

Joining Kelly in the Class of 2002 are Pittsburgh Steelers receiver John Stallworth, Oakland Raiders tight end Dave Casper, Chicago Bears defensive tackle Dan Hampton and Coach George Allen, the nominee of the Hall's Senior Committee. Allen died in 1990.

Kelly becomes the first quarterback to be inducted from the famed "Class of 1983" which included John Elway and Dan Marino. He also is the first player from the defunct United States Football League to make the Hall of Fame.

A strong-armed passer with a linebacker's mentality, Kelly rewrote most of the Bills' passing records and led the team to the playoffs eight times in his 11 years with the team from 1986-96.

With Kelly, running back Thurman Thomas and receiver Andre Reed, the Bills had one of the most potent offenses in the NFL.

Known for mastering the "no-huddle" offense that became a Bills' trademark, Kelly passed for 35,467 yards, ranking 12th all-time. Only three quarterbacks reached the 30,000-yard career passing mark faster.

Stallworth was a Hall of Fame presenter for fellow Steelers receiver Lynn Swann last year. Swann lobbied for Stallworth's election in his Hall of Fame speech and it apparently had an effect.

In his 10th year of eligibility, Stallworth becomes the ninth player from the Steelers' dynasty of the 1970s to make the Hall of Fame, joining Swann, Terry Bradshaw, Franco Harris, Mike Webster, Joe Greene, Jack Ham, Jack Lambert and Mel Blount.

Coached by Hall of Famer Chuck Noll, all nine were on four Super Bowl-winning teams.

In his 13th year of eligibility, Casper is the sixth tight end to be elected, following Mike Ditka, John Mackey, Jackie Smith, Kellen Winslow and Ozzie Newsome.

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