Tom Sestak

Buffalo Bills Defensive Lineman

In 1962, the Buffalo Bills drafted a tight end in the 17th round from little McNeese State, a school not particularly well known for turning out pro stars. It turned out to be one of the best draft picks in the history of the franchise.

In Buffalo Sestak never played end, a position he won all-conference honors for while in college. Instead, the Bills coaching staff decided to take advantage of his size and incredible strength on defense. They converted him to a tackle in their 4-3 defense.

In retrospect, it was also one of the smartest and most productive coaching decisions in Bills history. Quite simply, Sestak became one of the best defensive tackles in the history of the game. At 6-4, he had the size, speed and strength to handle any offensive lineman in the league. He became a starter in his rookie year and, until a series of knee injuries slowed him down, he played without parallel in the AFL. What separated him from other linemen was his great strength. On more than one occasion he amazed the opposition and his fans by reaching up and tackling a runningback in full stride for a loss while sprawled on the turf behind the line of scrimmage. Twice during his outstanding career he realized the defensive linemen’s “dream” by returning an interception for a touchdown.

His tenacious, hard-nosed play earned him the respect of all his peers throughout the league. He won consensus All-AFL first team honors in 1963, 1964 and 1965 and he was the cornerstone of a top-rated defense that took the Bills to the AFL championships in 1964 and 1965. Though his career ended prematurely because of chronic knee problems, Sestak made such a lasting impression that today the experts who study the game rate him along side Mean Joe Greene and Bruce Smith as among the best defensive linemen ever to play pro football.

Like Dubenion, Sestak also played an important role in the evolution of the Bills. Popular with the fans, his rock solid play on the field provided a solid foundation for a fragile new franchise in an upstart new league.

Off the field Sestak was a gentle giant who got along easily with his affable and sincere manner. After his retirement he made many friends as a restauranteur and businessman.

His untimely death in 1987 saddened scores of Western New Yorkers who knew him not only as a great player but also as an outstanding human being.