Ralph Wilson Jr., Jim Kelly, Bruce Smith, Thurman Thomas, Joe DeLamielleure, Marv Levy, Billy Shaw and O.J. Simpson represent the Buffalo Bills in the prestigious NFL Hall of Fame. Here is a look at why they reached the Hall and who could be next for the Buffalo Bills.
Ralph C. Wilson Jr. (2009)
Ralph Wilson Jr. is the founder and owner of the Buffalo Bills. He was one of the founding owners of the AFL or American Football League which would merge with the NFL in 1970. Wilson has continued to keep his team in Buffalo and is the last of the original owners that has kept his team in the original city. At age 93, he is the oldest owner in the NFL. In 1998 the Bills stadium was changed from Rich Stadium to Ralph Wilson Stadium.
Bruce Smith (2009)
Selected with the first pick of the 1985 NFL draft, Bruce Smith didn’t waste any time. With 15 sacks in 1986 and a personal best 19 in 1990, Bruce quickly became the Bills’ all-time sack leader. Quarterbacks feared Smith and always had to keep a steady eye on the defensive end. Before ending his career, he would set the all-time sacks record with 200 career sacks. Smith goes down as one of the best defensive players of all-time.
Thurman Thomas (2007)
The Buffalo Bills drafted the “Thurmanator” in the 1988 NFL draft and Thurman would be part of the high-powered offense that led the Bills to four straight Super Bowl’s. Thomas led the AFC in rushing in 1990-1993 and his yards from scrimmage were unheard of at that time. He was named the NFL’s Most Valuable Player in 1991 and became only the 11th player in NFL history to finish a season with over 2,000 all-purpose yards. He sits 14th among the NFL’s all-time rushing leaders 12,074 yards.
Joe DeLamielleure (2003)
Part of the offensive line nicknamed the “Electric Company,” Joe DeLamielleure helped O.J. Simpson rush for 2,003 yards in 1973. He was named to the Pro-Bowl and an All-Pro six times in his career. He was also named Offensive Lineman of the Year in 1975 and 1977. DeLamielleure became the first offensive lineman to ever block for a 2,000 yard rusher and 4,000 yard passer. He was also named to the NFL’s All-Decade Team in 1979.
James Lofton (2003)
Originally drafted by the Green Bay Packers, James Lofton was a critical part of the Buffalo Bills Super Bowl run. In his 16 NFL seasons, Lofton caught 764 passes for 14,004 yards and 75 touchdowns. He averaged 20 yards per catch or more in five seasons, leading the league in 1983 and 1984 with an average of 22.4 and 22 yards respectively. He also rushed 32 times for 246 yards and one touchdown. Lofton was the first NFL player to record 14,000 yards receiving and the first to score a touchdown in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s.
Jim Kelly (2002)
Jim Kelly has been the face of the Buffalo Bills since 1986 when he resurfaced from the USFL after it folded. Kelly led the Bills to four consecutive Super Bowl appearances and five divisional championships from 1989-1995. Buffalo made the playoffs in 8 of his 11 seasons as the starting quarterback and was the general of the “K-Gun” offense. Along with Thurman Thomas and Andre Reed, Kelly led the Bills high-powered offense. He finished his 11 NFL seasons with 2,874 completions in 4,779 attempts for 35,467 yards and 237 touchdowns, with 175 interceptions, all of which are Buffalo records.
Marv Levy (2001)
Levy came to Buffalo midway through the 1986 season. Early struggles turned into something special as in 1988 the Bills would post a 12-4 record and win the first of six AFC East Division titles. His no-huddle offense helped the Bills win four consecutive AFC Championships, a feat that has never been matched. Levy, the winningest coach in Bills’ history, recorded a 112–70 regular season record and was 11–8 in the playoffs during his eleven seasons with the Bills. He was named NFL Coach of the Year in 1988 and AFC Coach of the Year in 1988, 1993, and 1995.
Billy Shaw (1999)
Drafted by the AFL’s Buffalo Bills, Billy Shaw wasn’t always the biggest player on the football field. Despite his size he helped the Bills win three straight Eastern Division titles and two AFL League Championships in 1964 and 1965. Shaw was a first-team All-American Football League selection four times (1963 through 1966) and second team All-AFL in 1968 and 1969. He played in eight American Football League All-Star Games and was named to the All-Time All-AFL Team. He made the All-Decade All-pro football team of the 1960s. Shaw played his entire career in the American Football League, and retired after the 1969 AFL season. Shaw is the only player ever inducted to the Pro Football Hall of Fame without ever playing in the NFL.
O.J. Simpson (1985)
In 1973, Simpson rushed for a record 2,003 yards, becoming the first player ever to pass the 2,000-yard mark, and scored 12 touchdowns. Simpson gained more than 1,000 rushing yards for each of his next three seasons. From 1972 to 1976, Simpson averaged 1,540 rushing yards per (14 game) season, 5.1 yards per carry, and he won the NFL rushing title four times. Simpson had the best game of his career during the Thanksgiving game against the Detroit Lions on November 25, 1976, when he rushed for a then record 273 yards on 29 attempts and scoring two touchdowns.
Reed has been a finalist eight times. A seven-time Pro Bowler, he had 951 catches for 13,198 yards and 87 touchdowns. Those stats rank among the top 12 all-time.
No one had the heart that Steve Tasker had as the “gunner” for the Bills special teams. His enthusiasm, big hits and game changing plays sparked the offense and defense. He was named to the Pro Bowl seven times.
Over nine years with the Buffalo Bills, Bennett was named the AFC Defensive Player of the Year twice in 1998 and 1991. He was selected to the Pro Bowl five-times and finished his career with 1,190 tackles, 71.5 sacks and an impressive 27 fumble recoveries.
GB Bongiovanni is a syndicated writer and owner of TPF. He can be contacted on Twitter @GBBongiovanni.