By Jerry Sullivan
Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly will be the keynote speaker next Tuesday at a tribute for the late Kent Hull, his long-time center, in Hull's native Mississippi. The Tribute to Kent Hull Banquet will raise funds for a new trophy that will be awarded each year to the top collegiate offensive lineman in Mississippi.
Rick Cleveland, the executive director of the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame, covered Hull's career at Mississippi State as a reporter and columnist for the Clarion-Ledger in Jackson. Cleveland was a long-time admirer of Hull, who was regarded as a willing and insightful locker room presence during his college days and later as a Pro Bowl center in Buffalo.
Hull was Kelly's center during his entire time with the Bills. In fact, Hull and Kelly rode into town together on the day Kelly signed with the Bills. Cleveland said Kelly agreed to be the keynote speaker before he was diagnosed with jaw cancer in early June.
"I thought there was no way Jim would come," Cleveland said. "Two days after his cancer procedure, he had someone call and say he would be here. He said he would be perfectly able to do the event, and not to count him out."
Hull died at age 50 in October of 2011.