Kelly got offers from a number of USFL teams. Eventually he talked contract with the Gamblers and Argovitz, and now the former dentist abruptly found himself in the drilling chair. Argovitz didn't mind signing Rush—for four years at an estimated $750,000—because he'd wanted Rush anyway. But when he told Lustig he would pay what Lustig had asked for Kelly, Lustig shook his head and said, "That was yesterday."
What Lustig had decided he wanted, besides more money, was something that had rarely been done before. He wanted an escalator clause assuring that Kelly's contract would never become outdated. In short, he wanted a guarantee that Kelly would never be less than the third-highest-paid quarterback in the USFL. If other quarterbacks' salaries went way up, Kelly's would go up, too. Lustig got what he asked for.
"I got every dime I could from the Gamblers," he says. "But I don't think I stole from them. They don't feel that way, either. There was never a voice raised. I was asking for something sophisticated, and it took somebody like Jerry to understand it."
Kelly himself likes Argovitz; indeed, the two may room together on the road this season. But he just shakes his head when asked about Lustig. "What can you say about a guy who gets you the best contract in the history of pro football?" Kelly asks.
Kelly wanted to go to Penn State after high school, but Joe Paterno recruited him only as a linebacker and Kelly backed off. For the Hurricanes Kelly's first start came in his second year (he was redshirted his first) against Penn State, at State College, Pa. The game was televised in the Miami area. Kelly was 19 and scared to death.
On Kelly's first play defensive tackle Bruce Clark hit him and partly dislocated his jaw. Kelly trotted to the sideline for treatment by a trainer. He went back onto the field, played the rest of the game and led Miami, a heavy underdog, to a 26-10 victory. After that, people knew he was tough.
His teammates also knew he had a weak stomach. Shortly before that Penn State game Kelly had gone to the lavatory and thrown up. "I'd always done that before games in high school, and I probably will in the pros," says Kelly, who indeed threw up before the Gamblers' first exhibition. "But that was the first time in college, because it was my first start. Everybody got a kick out of it. After that, the guys would all start watching me before a game. Finally I'd get up and go to the John and throw up, and they'd all cheer and go wild. That's how I psyched them up."
In no other city in America was there as much tumult as in Miami while Kelly went to school there. There were Cuban and Haitian boatlifts, race riots, shoot-'em-up drug-smuggling operations and bombings by anti-Castro groups. There were local blacks and Cuban-Americans on the Hurricanes, but they and their teammates worked to insulate themselves from the surrounding turmoil. Kelly and his buddies drank at Duffy's, a bar near campus, and did their best to act like football players at Ordinary U.
"We'd see a stinky refugee boat on the beach and just use it as another punch line in practice," says Rush. Not all of the players had hard shells—Kelly, who graduated with a degree in business management, spent much of his spare time working as the South Florida Easter Seals chairman, for instance—but there was a sense that what was going on outside was just too weird to deal with. That feeling drew the players together, and the team flourished because of it.
Kelly and Rush were on the Miami sideline in January when the Hurricanes beat Nebraska 31-30 in the Orange Bowl to win the national championship. Because of all they had given to the program, they felt that they were part of that win. In fact, Schnellenberger says that if Kelly hadn't gone down early in '82, that team might have won the national title, too. "Certainly they had more experience than this year's team," says Schnellenberger.