Bruce Smith

Home 5 Class of 2006 5 Bruce Smith

Buffalo Bills All-Pro Defensive End

Most sports observers will agree with the well-proven adage that a strong defense is the foundation of a championship team. However, when the Buffalo Bills drafted defensive end Bruce Smith with the first pick in the 1985 National Football League draft, the team acquired not only a building block for the unprecedented run of success of the early 1990’s, but a player who set the standard at his position and helped re-define that position in the NFL.

An Outland Trophy winner as the nation’s top collegiate lineman at Virginia Tech, Smith made an immediate impact upon his arrival at One Bills Drive. The hard-hitting freshman was AFC Defensive Rookie of the Year in 1985, and for the next 15 years, the hits, and awards, kept on coming. Bruce was a nine-time Pro Bowl selection (a Bills team record), a first-team All-Pro selection by multiple publications in multiple seasons, a four-time UPI Defensive Player of the Year, Defensive Lineman of the Year in multiple seasons, Pro Bowl Most Valuable Player in 1987, and finalist for the Miller Lite NFL Player of the Year in 1994.

Smith brought to his position speed, strength, and agility previously unseen in a player of his size (6-4, 275). His athletic gifts made him the total defensive package, equally adept at defending the run or the pass. However, it was as a pass rusher that Bruce made his most lasting impression. Quarterback sacks are a particularly devastating and demoralizing weapon in a defensive arsenal, and no defender ever accomplished that task with greater frequency and flair than Smith. Always among the league leaders in sacks, Bruce set an NFL record for most seasons with double-digit sack totals (13) in 2000, and in 2003 logged his 199th career sack with the Washington Redskins to establish a new NFL record.

A listing of awards and statistics does not convey the full impact of Smith upon hapless opponents, nor the inspiration his sensational defensive plays brought to teammates and rabid Rich Stadium rooters. Bruce Smith was a dominant player, an offensive coordinator’s nightmare around whom offensive game plans were devised and whose presence had to be accounted for on every play. Smith usually shredded the opposition, and the double and triple teaming employed against him freed up his talented defensive mates to wreck havoc elsewhere on the field.

Jim Kelly, Thurman Thomas, and other offensive Super Bowl teammates of Smith have been recognized by the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame. Tonight, the Hall commences its overdue recognition of the defensive side of the ball by honoring Bruce Smith, the greatest defender ever to wear the team colors.