This weekend, a pair of superstar NFL quarterbacks are in my thoughts and it had very little to do with the ceremonies in Canton.
On the one hand, my heart breaks for Jim Kelly and his family. Jim’s 8 year old son Hunter died Friday morning of Krabbe Disease, a fatal disease of the nervous system.
Born in 1997, Hunter was given no more than three years to live after being diagnosed with the disease, which hinders development of the myelin sheath, a fatty covering that protects the brain's nerve fibres. Kelly spoke of his son’s plight earlier this year on the Jim Rome show on the Team 1200. It was extremely moving.
"He'll never be able to do what daddy did," Kelly said. "But he's going to do greater things. He's going to make a difference in kids' lives. He already has."
In honour of their son, Jim and his wife, Jill, established the Hunter's Hope Foundation in 1997, which has raised more than $6 million US and awarded more than $3.8 million to leukodystrophy and other neurological disease-related research.
As a father of a child born with a disability (autism), I admit I sometimes feel a little sorry for myself. The story of what the Kellys have gone through obviously minimizes my problems. To read more about the Kellys, here is a link to their website.
Kelly would have loved to have been there this weekend to see his dear friend Dan Marino join him in the hall of fame. Both are Western Pennsylvanians, both part of the QB class of 1983 and both were dealt tough hands as dads. But Marino's story has a happy ending.
He may not have won a Super Bowl but he and his family licked autism. Marino’s seventeen year old son Mike appears to have beaten it -- completely. Not a sign remains.
In 2002, Mikey told CBS Sportsline, "I usually don't bring it up much because I get this really cold feeling when I think about how I had autism. I think about how I am now and how I was then, and it's just too weird for me. I won't say I have been cured because you can't really be cured of autism. But I have overcome it. That's what you can do, you can overcome it. I don't notice it at all anymore."
In order to attack it, Dan and his wife Claire began a foundation to assist children with learning disabilities. That foundation then led to the Dan Marino Center in South Florida, where they actually bring in an average of 3,500 children per month for testing and treatment for a variety of disabilities.
Jim Kelly and Dan Marino were two of the best quarterbacks ever. However, it will be their achievements as fathers that makes them hall of famers with me.
(with files from CBS Sportsline)