#1: Bruce Smith
“Bad things man.”
These were words spoken during a Nike shoe commercial that ran during Smiths’ hay days depicting all the “bad things” he did out on the field every Sunday. And for the most part, the commercial rang true as the former first-overall selection in the 1985 NFL Draft would go on to set the league on fire.
Entering the draft, Smith was the consensus first-overall pick as the Bills looked to continue to rebuild their franchise. Selecting Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly in the previous 1984 NFL Draft, the focus shifted to the defensive side of the ball.
During Smith’s time at his hometown Virginia Tech, he redefined the defensive end position. Recording 22 sacks in his breakout 1983 junior season that would just a sample of Smiths’ capabilities as he would go on to become a consensus All-American and Outland Trophy winner as a senior. He left Virginia Tech being the Hokies’ all-time leader in sacks with 46 and tackles for loss with 71, making him arguably the best defensive player in program history.
During his rookie season, Smith came into the organization at a playing weight that was not sustainable as it slowed him down. Weighing in at roughly 290 pounds, the Bills used Smith much like Chicago’s William “The Refrigerator” Perry as a fullback in goal-line situations. Though he was a big frame carrying nearing 300 lbs of weight, he still got after the quarterback. Recording 6.5 sacks in his first year, Smith would go on to nearly triple that output in his later years.
Following his draft season, Smith took a liking to fitness. Falling from his previous bodyfat percentage to his new playing percentage of 6.1, this drastic change in physique allowed him to be an even bigger menace on the field. Improving fro 6.5 sacks to 15 in the following 1986 season, Smith began to put the league on notice. Between 1987-1997, Smith had appeared in 11 Pro Bowls, was named All-Pro 11 times, recorded 161 sacks and over 1,000 combined tackles and was apart of the Bills four Super Bowl appearances.
Following the 1999 seasons, the Bills cut ties with their links to the 1991 Super Bowl as Smith along with Thurman Thomas and Andre Reed were released. This gave Smith an opportunity to return home to a franchise close to his hometown of Norfolk, V.A. as he joined the Washington Redskins where he would go on to set the NFL sack record with 200 that still stands to this day, which earned him an induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2009.
Though it ended on a sour note, Smith’s legacy lives on in Buffalo but not just off the field but intertwined in the town’s community. To this day, you can still sit down at Smiths’ favorite Buffalo restaurant, Chef’s, and tackle the signature “Bruce Smith Chicken Parm ” just like he did during his many visits to the establishment with his teammates.
Buffalo recently added Smith to the exclusive Wall of Fame, retiring his number 78 and assuring no Buffalo Bills player ever wears it again.