BBD Editor: Dan Hope
Andre Reed’s nine-year wait to join the most prestigious club in football officially came to an end Saturday night, when the legendary NFL wide receiver was enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.
With Reed’s enshrinement Saturday, there are now eight members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame who have played for the Buffalo Bills. Five of them were a part of the Bills’ run of four consecutive Super Bowl appearances that followed the 1990-93 NFL seasons. Four of them—Reed, quarterback Jim Kelly, running back Thurman Thomas and fellow wide receiver James Lofton (for the first three Super Bowls)—were offensive skill-position players.
Part of why the Bills were so successful during those years was how well-rounded their offense was. They could run the ball as well as they could pass it. But Reed admitted Saturday night that he always thought the ball should come his way.
“We always joked about what I would say every time I left the huddle, whether it was a run or pass play,” Reed said during his 36-minute speech. “‘Right here, bro.’ I didn’t care if it was a run or a pass. I would say it every time … I wanted the ball every single time.”
That wasn’t quite the case, but Reed certainly had no shortage of opportunities to catch passes. In 16 NFL seasons—the first 15 of which came with the Buffalo Bills—he had 951 regular-season receptions for 13,198 yards and 87 touchdowns, all numbers that rank within the top 15 in league history.
Reed seemingly covered all the bases Saturday in thanking the people who helped him get to the Hall of Fame.
After acknowledging the Hall of Famers on stage alongside him, he spent time talking about how his parents and his older brother, a wide receiver himself during his years of high school football, inspired him to achieve NFL greatness. Then, after acknowledging his experiences at Dieruff High School and Kutztown University, he turned his focus to the team for whom he became a legend.
Reed admitted that when he was drafted by the Bills as a fourth-round pick in 1985, he “had no idea where Buffalo was.”
“They said New York, I said New York City? They said NO,” Reed said.
Then he acknowledged some of his famous teammates, starting with the other Hall of Fame player from the Bills’ Super Bowl years, defensive end Bruce Smith.
“On that first trip in minicamp I was on a plane, that’s when I met Bruce Smith,” Reed said. “Bruce was standing there on a plane, all 6’4”, 300 pounds of him. He had the intimidation factor with his sunglasses on. What an intimidating presence he was.”
Next, he turned to focus to Darryl Talley, a star linebacker from the Bills’ heyday.
“You were the emotional glue to this team,” Reed said, addressing Talley. “The heart and soul of us.”
Jerry Butler, a wide receiver, provided “a great example” to Reed in his first two seasons.
“When I first came into the organization, the coaches said, hey, if you want to be good, watch No. 80, he’ll teach you how to be a professional on and off the field,” Reed said of Butler.
Lofton, who lined up opposite Reed as a starting wideout for the Bills from 1989-92, was “more than a teammate” for Reed.
“I can always confide in him and talk to him about anything,” Reed said of Lofton.
Thomas, Reed said, “displayed leadership beyond leadership.”
“He made me a better player, and definitely made us a better damn team,” Reed said of Thomas. “You held us accountable, man, for everything we did.”
Later, Reed talked about his presenter and his former coach with the Bills, Marv Levy.
“There wasn’t a better teacher than our head coach Marv Levy,” Reed said. “He became our father figure … and he became even more of a father figure to me, when I lost mine.
“One thing we admired about you is a coach is that word respect,” Reed added, then addressing Levy. “We respected the heck out of you, and when you respect your coach, you do everything you can to win.”
Reed also acknowledged the Bills’ longtime owner, Ralph Wilson Jr., who passed away earlier this year.
“To me, the greatest owner in sports history,” Reed said.
The night was certainly about Reed and the other six men enshrined in the Hall of Fame, but it was also a night to recognize Buffalo. While the New York Giants were certainly well-represented too, as expected because the Giants play the Bills in Sunday’s Hall of Fame Game, it was clear all day in Canton that the Bills had the largest and loudest fan representation.
One line in particular from Reed’s speech, following a pause after his comments on Wilson, brought the Bills Mafia to a roar.
“Oh yeah, and the Bills will stay in Buffalo too,” Reed said.
On a night where prospective Bills owner Jon Bon Jovi was in attendance, at a time where Bon Jovi is considered a threat to buy the Bills and move them to Toronto, that sentiment was much appreciate from the Buffalo fanbase.
Those fans were there to see Reed, but they were also there to see quarterback Jim Kelly. It was the presence of Kelly, who is in the midst of his second bout with cancer, that made Saturday night truly special.
It all started during the introductions of the returning Hall of Famer that preceded the night’s seven speeches. For the most part, master of ceremonies Chris Berman rattled through the names, each of which were met with mild applause. Kelly’s introduction, however, was a moment all its own.
When Kelly’s name was announced, the entire group of returning Hall of Famers—and seemingly just about everyone in the crowd—stood to salute him. The cheering continued for several minutes, long enough that after most of the crowd and Hall of Famers had sat down, they rose back to their feet to salute him once again.
No one—not even the seven players enshrined on Saturday night—received a louder or longer ovation that the Bills quarterback.
During his speech, Reed made it clear how much Kelly means to him.
“You’re the reason why I’m standing here today,” Reed told Kelly. “Your belief in me that I could get the job done at any time will resonate with me the rest of my life. Every time I looked into your eyes in the huddle I knew we could get it done. I knew we had a chance to win. Leadership beyond reasonable doubt. Those around you gravitated to your leadership and what you said. You taught us not to quit.”
Reed also invoked a favorite saying of Bills fans, “12 plus 83 always equals six,” in reference to Kelly’s jersey number, Reed’s jersey number and the number of points scored in a touchdown.
If that equation is true, Reed scored the 88th touchdown of his pro football career Saturday night. Following his speech, Kelly stood up on stage to throw one more pass to his former receiver.
All in all, Saturday night was the completion of a journey for Reed.
“No more routes to run, no more passes to catch, no more DBs to beat,” Reed said. “The journey is complete.”
More from the 2014 Hall of Fame Enshrinement
Marv Levy, on Andre Reed, during his presenting video: “Was Andre Reed a competitor? You betcha.”
Derrick Brooks: “This is what it’s all about. There’s no higher place to go in this game.”
Claude Humphrey: “They told me I only had 10 minutes once I got up here, but let me tell you, I’ve waited 30 years to get to this podium, so don’t rush me.” (His speech was 29 minutes.)
Aeneas Williams: “You see I was in New York when I found out I was number one. When I stepped outside and I came out from warm-up, and I stepped into the stadium, and a whole section in the Giants Stadium, a whole section stood up and told me I was No. 1 with the middle finger.”
Walter Jones: “Being franchised really helped define my character and my career. Missing training camp wasn’t bad either.” (He held out of three training camps in a row from 2002-04.)
Ray Guy: “I hope I inspire young punters to achieve their dreams to one day play in the NFL and maybe even be elected into the Hall of Fame. It’s been long, long overdue, but now the Hall of Fame has a complete team.”
Michael Strahan: “My life is improbable. I am an absolutely improbable Hall of Famer … I didn’t grow up saying, I’m going to do this.
“I’m going to go to when I was 13 years old,” Strahan added. “I’m the youngest of six. I’m the one that gets beat up. I’m the one that gets abused. I was 13 years old, and I’m going to say I was a husky kid. I called it big boned … I was husky, big boned and they made fun of me.”
Social Media Account of the Night
Walter Jones made history on Saturday night when he became the first Hall of Famer ever to display a social media account on stage during his enshrinement speech. He held up the above Instagram handle, that of his daughter Waleria, on a towel. Waleria had more than 1,800 Instagram followers as of midnight Sunday.