The NFL HOF Proudly Welcomes: Andre Reed!

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I don’t think I’ve ever been more excited about writing something than I am to write this piece on my favorite Bills receiver of all time, Andre Reed! I was eight years old when the Bills started their impressive Super Bowl run from 1990-1993. I was at the perfect age and just getting into football; I played as the Bills on Tecmo Bowl and Super Tecmo Bowl (though I wish they would have had Kelly’s name in there instead of stupid QB Bills!). I played football almost every day with my friends, and like any kid I always pretended to be my favorite sports player! Since I was fast, I tended to be a WR. I always pretended to be Andre Reed. Even my mom liked Andre Reed, more so because she thought he was good looking than because of how good of a football player he was; nevertheless, our entire household gathered every Sunday to watch Kelly and Reed annihilate other teams!

bills-andre-reed-bruce-smith-thurman-thomasI remember watching Reed make all the tough catches over the middle, and–for a guy who wasn’t the biggest–the middle was not the place a receiver wanted to go back then. Reed was a slot receiver before the slot receiver position was even invented. The other guys like Jerry Rice, Tim Brown, Art Monk, Mark Clayton and Super (Mark) Duper were all more outside guys and played for teams that relied heavily on the passing game as they lacked a running game. Reed had the best all-purpose RB in the league in Thurman Thomas setting single season all-purpose yard records, yet Reed still managed to make it to 3rd all-time in receptions with 951 and 4th in yards with 13,198 when he retired in 2000.

The best part about watching those Bills back then was that, no matter the score, you always had a feeling they could come back, and nothing signified that expectation like the greatest comeback game in NFL history! Reed was on the receiving end of three TDs that day, and his final one put the Bills ahead 38-35. It’s such an amazing game to watch now since it was blacked out then! I remember being so mad at half time; I went to play Tecmo Bowl to beat the pants off Warren Moon and the Oilers. When I turned the radio on to catch the score, It was just before Reed’s TD catch to put them ahead. My house and all over the neighborhood exploded! You could hear everyone cheering and yelling; it was awesome!

Of course there are countless other memories I have of Andre Reed as it seemed anytime we needed a big play or a first down there was Andre, flashing open from his shifty slot position! “Right Here Bro” after every pass play called in the huddle was commonly heard coming from Andre’s mouth. It was that competitive spirit he had that helped define one of the greatest decades in Buffalo sports history.

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Reed came from humble beginnings in Allentown, PA. Thanks to his father and brothers, competition was a daily occurrence at the Reed house. Despite being a small kid, Reed never backed down. Whether it be at a pick up football game, basketball game or whatever, he never let his size define him. When it came to playing football in high school, Reed was far from the player he was in Buffalo, only making it to the scout team as a junior. His senior year actually found him behind center as a QB! Reed had a few options for college and needed to decide a path to take. Junior College for two years then transfer to a big school? Maybe find a smaller school he can play for right away? He ended up choosing Kutztown University, a Division II school not far from home–only about a 45 minute drive. The school had a good academic program. It was close to home, and Reed was a little bit of a home body. He also liked the idea of playing now at a smaller school and developing than trying to go to a larger program and possibly getting lost in the shuffle. Reed’s desire to play in the NFL was very evident as the over-confident freshman would often say “I’ll be in the NFL one day” to his coach. Reed was fast; he could run, throw and catch, so the coaches had to figure out what to do with him. Fortunately for Reed they already had a good QB, so Coach put him at wide receiver, and Reed never looked back. Reed’s first TD at Kutztown came on an impressive 55 yards pass, where he was double teamed and out-jumped two defenders for the ball in the end zone. That would be a sight that would thrill Bills fans throughout his NFL career. Reed finished his college career with 142 catches for 2,020 yards and 14 TDs while setting nine school records.

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Andre’s dream of playing in the NFL came true in 1985 when the Bills selected him 86th overall in the 4th round. He was the 13th receiver selected that year. The Bills even passed him over when they drafted Chris Burkett in the 2nd round! Reed’s toughness was evident from Day 1 in training camp. Reed knew there were at least 15 other guys fighting for one of five spots on the team and he wasn’t going to start backing down from challenges now. Reed would often tell coaches and quarterbacks to throw him the ball regardless of who was covering him. There could be three guys on him, and he would say I’m going to get the ball no matter what; another staple that we came to expect from Andre over the next 15 years. To further touch on his toughness and his desire to succeed, one of Reeds biggest workouts he would do in the offseason would be to run up Cumberland Hill back near his home in Allentown, PA. As many athletes were, he was inspired by Walter Payton saying that’s how he trained–by running up and down hills. Its conditioning like this that had teammates calling him a workout monster, because it seemed he would always be back in the gym just weeks after the season ended.

Reed’s rookie year was pretty decent; he had 48 receptions and 637 yards and 4 TDs and 1 TD rushing. But the Bills hadn’t yet gotten Kelly and Thurman. They wouldn’t arrive until 1988. It was then that the dominant Bills were born. Reed was like a piece of iron. As the year passed, he got stronger, quicker, and harder to bring down. He was a yards-after-the-catch monster! Most corners were too small to tackle him, and he was quicker than any linebacker in the game. Even though he played very physical and in the toughest parts of the field, Reed only missed three games in the first 10 years of his career. 1995 was the only year he missed considerable time (only playing 6 games), but he returned to form to finish out his career. In 1996, he came back with 66 catches and 1,036 yards receiving and 6 TDs. It would be his most productive season from there on out.

The dynamic duo of Reed and Kelly were the best the NFL had ever seen. At the time Kelly retired in 1996, he and Reed had teamed up to set the NFL all-time record for a QB and WR combo at 665 passes and 9,538 yards (and 59 TD’s, but who’s counting?)

reed_prosetOn Sunday, Bills nation gets to watch one of the final pieces of the greatest Bills team in history become enshrined forever as one of the best football players of all time. Standing up there to welcome him will be Jim Kelly, Thurman Thomas, Marv Levy, Bruce Smith, James Lofton and, of course, smiling down from above, Mr. Ralph Wilson. This may mark the last time we see a Bill enter into the Hall of Fame for a while. Maybe there’s a Hall of Famer on the team now, maybe Tasker, Hall, or Bennett make it one day. But if you’re like me and were able to witness and share with the Bills and community those years in the early 1990’s, this weekend will be an event you won’t forget and its another moment you can just hear Marv Levy saying: “Where would you rather be than right here, right now!” Thanks for reading, and GO BILLS!

By: Jason Sinsabaugh

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