As we move through our series, we move on to one of the more famous numbers in Buffalo Bills history; number 12. When you think of number 12 in the red, white, and blue the first and last person that comes to mind in Jim Kelly. Kelly was the last person to wear the number and since it has been retired by the Bills. There are also 5 other players in Bills history that wore the number 12 before Jim and they were all quarterbacks as well.
The first player to wear the number 12 was quarterback Al Dorow back in 1962. Dorow came to the Bills via trade from the New York Titans, which are today’s New York Jets. He injured his arm in the fourth game of the season and did not play again.
Manch Wheeler wore number 12 during the same year as Dorow and was brought to the Bills as a free agent in 1962.
The third player in Bills history to don the number 12 was Daryle Lamonica. Lamonica was given two nicknames during his career. He was known as the “Mad Bomber” due to the fact that he would throw a long ball in any situation. He was also nicknamed “the fireman”. This came about when he was backing up Jack Kemp during his time in Buffalo and his ability to come into games when Kemp was injured and pull out a win. Lamonica finished his career in the WFL with the Southern California Sun in 1975.
The fourth of six players to wear number 12 was James Harris from 1969-1971. Harris was drafted by the Bills in the 8th round of the 1969 draft. He soon accompanied OJ Simpson in the back field and with more allowances in the AFL for personnel policies, the Bills made Harris the first black player to start a season a quarterback in pro football. He went on to play until 1981 and finished his career with the San Diego Chargers.
The next player to wear number 12 was Joe Ferguson. Ferguson was with the Bills from 1973-1984. Ferguson started as a rookie after being drafted by the Bills in the 3rd round of the 1973 draft. Ferguson was replaced by Joe Dufek in 1984. He went on to play 6 more seasons in the NFL finishing with the Indianapolis Colts in 1990. He was raised to the Bills Wall of Fame in 1993 and the number 12 jersey has been retired in his honor as well as our next and final Bills player to wear the number 12; Jim Kelly.
Jim Kelly played for the Bills from 1986-1996. He was most notably known for running the K-Gun offense, a no huddle style offense, and leading the Bills to 4 straight Super Bowls. Kelly holds the NFL record for most yards gained per completion in a game, 44. Kelly played 11 seasons with the Bills. He was raised to the Bills Wall of Fame in 2001 and was elected to the Hall of Fame the following year in 2002. During his time and even up through today, Kelly is still seen as the face of the franchise. Kelly currently is part of a group of former Bills players that are in the hunt to purchase the Buffalo Bills and subsequently keep them in Buffalo.