Man inspired by Jim Kelly shares his story

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – If anyone knows the power of positive thinking, and the power of prayer, it is former Buffalo Bisons General Manager Mike Billoni.

He survived a critical accident and received some of his greatest encouragement from Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly at the time. Now Billoni is giving back.

In 1992, Billoni almost lost his life to a drunk driver when he was on a bike ride in Canada and was hit by a driver going 60 MPH. He struck the windshield and suffered a fractured skull and multiple internal injuries. He underwent 17 hours of surgery.

“It’s pretty amazing, just like that how your life changes,” he said. “They told my father, they said I don’t think he’s going to make it.”

But slowly he came back. A surprise visit from then-Buffalo Bills quarterback Jim Kelly that would give Billoni the inspiration to see life in a different light. Kelly gave Billoni the game ball from the Bills victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers the day before.

“He says, ‘What are you doing Billoni? And he throws me this ball,” he recalled.

Kelly was already a hero to Billoni, who once covered the Bills for the Courier Express. And after his accident, the Superbowl quarterback would give Billoni a pep talk that became a turning point in his recovery.

Billoni said, “He started telling me stories of when he was injured in college and when he would struggle to get back. He said his parents, ‘They’d always push, be positive. Think about the winning. Think about the end result. I’m going to win that game, no matter how many points down, I’m going to win. I’m going to win.’ And I just kept repeating it.”

So now, Billoni wants all of us to do something inspirational for Jim Kelly.

“What if we had a moment of silence at noon this coming Sunday? Whatever you’re doing, stop what you’re doing and just send up a good thought. If you don’t believe of anyone up there just send a good thought for Jim Kelly, but if you know how to pray, just say a prayer,” Billoni said.

Billoni, who is now Marketing Director for the Food Bank of Western New York, is also hoping the Bisons will sign a team ball for Jim Kelly next Thursday on opening day. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review. Note: Comments containing links are not allowed.

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