Smith, Wilson Among Bills Inducted To Hall..Reed Left Out

By PFC Writer Michael S. Moore

The National Football Leagues highest pinnacle has been reached once again for Buffalo alum. Five years after DE Bruce Smith surpassed the late Reggie White’s all-time sack record, Bruce is headed to Canton as one of two Bills inducted in the 2009 class. Owner Ralph Wilson, who founded the Buffalo Bills in 1960 and who has been a huge part in the league’s success since the merger, will be joining him as well. Unfortunately, the third Buffalo Bill on the preliminary ballot, Andre Reed will have to wait yet another year after being eligible since 2000. Andre joins Kent Hull and Steve Tasker as Bills players felt deserving enough from that mid 90’s team also awaiting induction. Both Hull and Tasker retired in 1997 and have been eligible for 6 years. Wilson and Smith become the 5th and 6th Buffalo Bills to be inducted since 2001, and brings the total number of Bills players in the Hall Of Fame to 8. The two will join the other 4 inductees of the 2009 class including Rod Woodson, Randall McDaniel, Bob Hayes, and Derrick Thomas. Another very talented class to add to the 247 man shrine.

Born in Norfolk, Virginia Bruce Smith attended college at Virgina Tech where he was an All-American defensive lineman and awarded the Outland Trophy in 1984. Bruce spent 14 years in a Buffalo uniform before finishing his career in Washington in 2003. The 11 time pro bowler selected number 1 overall in the 1985 draft, lead Buffalo to 4 straight AFC championships with his unmatched ability to get to the quarterback. While receiving the defensive player of the year award two times in his career, once in 1990 and again in 1996, Smith was bothered by knee injuries several times in his career. In 1991, Smith played only 5 games sidelined for the other 11. The following year Bruce was back to his old ways, as he reached the pro bowl for the 5th time in his career. Finishing his career as the all time leader in sacks and a player that defensive coordinators took days upon days to gameplan for, once known as the most feared defensive end in the game, Bruce found his spot in Canton, and rightfully so.

“Count me in with Buffalo”, the now famous words used by Bills’ Owner/President in 1959 when informing Lamar Hunt that Buffalo,NY will be home to a new AFL franchise. The Buffalo Bills won the AFL championship two consecutive years in 1964 and 1965. In 1966 the AFL and the NFL reached merging agreements and the Buffalo Bills became one of 24 teams in the league. Ralph Wilson played a huge role in the success and security of the AFL NFL merger. In the years of the AFL Ralph was committed to success for the league, even loaning money to help teams in tough financial times. Early in the teams history Ralph had plenty of success in the “small market” area of western New York. A businessman as Ralph is, plenty of opportunities presented themselves to relocate the team for financial benefit. His commitment and loyalty stayed with the people in Buffalo. Not only has Wilson paved the way for NFL owners today, but his dedication to making the league better and continuing to do so, makes him an easy choice for induction.

The 2009 Hall Of Fame class was like many, bound with talented players and great contributors to the league and to the sport. Maybe none better in their respective positions then Ralph Wilson Jr. and Bruce Smith. The founder of the Buffalo Bills who played a lead role in the AFL/NFL’s success, Ralph has always focused on making the league better. In 1985 Wilson seen a great athlete in Bruce Smith, and ultimately his decision to select Smith would result in a Hall Of Fame career. Although teammate Andre Reed was left out once again, his place in Canton is also awaiting. As for Ralph Wilson And Bruce Smith, to be inducted in the same class truly is something special for the team, the fans, and for the NFL.