S Tony Greene (1971-1979)
Tony Greene went undrafted in the 1971 NFL Draft, but was highly sought after once he was a free agent. Although he had several choices, he ultimately decided to sign with the Buffalo Bills because he was certain it would give him the best opportunity at a career in the NFL.
And, boy, what a career he would have.
At the end of the 1970 season, the Buffalo Bills parted ways with CB Butch Byrd — who was the franchise’s all-time leader in interceptions, interception yards and interceptions returned for a touchdown. He spent seven years with the Bills and when he left, the team lost their greatest defensive back in history.
Luckily, the 1971 NFL Draft came along and Tony Greene would go undrafted, later signing with the Bills. Little did Buffalo know, Tony Greene would spend the next nine seasons with the team and would come just 3 interceptions short of Byrd’s all-time record. Not only did Greene show up at the right time, he stayed in Buffalo and flourished.
If it weren’t for one coach in particular, Greene might’ve never signed with the Buffalo Bills. Ralph Hawkins, who as an assistant at the time of Greene’s signing, was one of his college coaches. Greene explained the situation:
"“Ralph Hawkins [an assistant coach with the Bills from 1969-71 and 1981-82] had been a coach at Maryland when I was there,” said Greene. “He was one of the main reasons I signed with Buffalo. I could have signed with several teams, including the Dallas Cowboys or Washington Redskins, two teams who had also contacted me, but I just felt as though I had a better chance of making it with the Bills. It just happened that I was in the right place at the right time.”"
In his 128 games with the Buffalo Bills, Greene finished with a total of 37 interceptions, 628 interception return yards, 2 pick-6’s, 13 fumble recoveries, one safety and he also holds the franchise record for longest interception return for a touchdown (101 yards).
If we could find a safety like Tony Greene, our defense would instantly get stronger. The team did sign Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer after releasing Aaron Williams and Corey Graham, but more depth and possibly even a starter would help solidify the position.
Moving on, I wasn’t going to select any of the obvious names — like Andre Reed, Jim Kelly, yada yada — but when I had to think of one defensive lineman that I would want to bring back, I couldn’t help myself.
Next up is a defensive end that would immediately put the Bills in the playoffs.