Looking back, some of the largest icons in NFL history are often the ones that can be overlooked. All franchises have had their fair share of historic players, but who were the best of the best? Here, we discuss the four most iconic players to step on the field. We continue our series with the Buffalo Bills:
Honorable Mentions: O.J. Simpson, Joe DeLamielleure, Steve Tasker
WR Andre Reed (1985-99)
After a successful 1985 Draft that included Reed and Bruce Smith, the team saw immediate success from their wide receiver. In his journey to being named to seven Pro Bowls, Reed currently holds the franchise record for receptions (941), receiving yards (13,095) and touchdowns (86).
As one of Jim Kelly’s most reliable targets, Reed totaled four seasons with 1,000+ receiving yards. In the postseason, he was responsible for 85 receptions, 1,229 receiving yards and nine touchdowns. As a Hall of Fame inductee in 2014, Reed belongs on the Mount Rushmore.
QB Jim Kelly (1986-96)
As one of the most iconic players in franchise history, Kelly was originally drafted with the 14th overall pick in the 1983 NFL Draft. It was the same draft class that produced both John Elway and Dan Marino as well. For the first three years, however, Kelly spent time representing the Houston Gamblers in the USFL.
Once transitioning to the NFL, Kelly made the Pro Bowl during his sophomore season. Currently, his 35,467 passing yards and 237 touchdowns are both franchise records.
Despite four consecutive Super Bowl losses, Kelly is still a fan favorite. However, his ability to place the team into relevancy will always be remarkable.
RB Thurman Thomas (1988-99)
With Kelly and Reed already on the roster, the Buffalo Bills focused on their run game in the 1988 NFL Draft by selecting Thomas. As a result, he became the franchise rushing leader.
After the departure of O.J. Simpson, the Bills were left without a face in their backfield. For a number of years, the offense was forced to cycle through names in a committee.
In his rookie season, Buffalo finished 12-4 and went to the AFC Championship. In the following eight seasons, Thomas totaled 1,000+ rushing yards.
Despite being a reliable rusher, Thomas also managed to catch out of the backfield as well. To date, his 4,341 receiving yards ranks 6th in franchise history.
DE Bruce Smith (1985-99)
While the Bills held a formidable offense, their most accomplished player in franchise history could arguably be Bruce Smith. His 200 career sacks is still an NFL record, and his 14.5 sacks in the postseason trails only Willie McGinest.
As the first selection in the 1985 NFL Draft, Smith made an immediate impact with 6.5 sacks for the Bills. Among full seasons he participated in, that was Smith’s lowest total for a single season through 2001.
With 11 Pro Bowls, eight All-Pro nominations, and two Defensive Player of the Year awards, Smith is regarded as the best pass-rusher in NFL history by most.