Thursday, June 28, 2018

Buffalo's Uniform Numbers, Part 2

I had wanted to do an update of a story on Buffalo's best uniform numbers for sometime. But, for one reason or another, it never got done.

Until now. Buffalo Sports Page is getting it done. 

Here for posterity (?) is the list of the bottom 50 numbers. I'll have another post on 0 to 49 later.

50 – Al Bemiller, Bills. After winning a national championship with Syracuse in 1959, Al joined the Bills in 1961. He stayed nine years, and never missed a game. Bemiller stayed in Western New York after retirement in a number of roles. Others: Ray Bentley, Bills; Jim Cheyunski, Bills; Sam Pellom, UB.

51 – Jim Ritcher, Bills. He came out of North Carolina State as an All-American center, and was Buffalo’s top pick in 1980. Jim stayed through 1993, moving to guard along the way. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. Others: Brian Campbell, Sabres; John Tracey, Bills; Shawn Williams, Bandits. 

52 – Preston Brown, Bills. The linebacker was a third-round pick by Buffalo in 2014, and didn’t miss a game in the next four years. In fact, he didn’t start in two of those 64 games. He left as a free agent this winter to sign with the Bengals. Others: Mike Smrek, Canisius; Curtis Blackmore, UB; Tom McMillen, Braves.

53 – Greg Sanders, St. Bonaventure. He came out of a Washington, D.C. high school (coached by John Thompson) and became the Bonnies’ all-time leading scorer. Greg was a standout on the 1977 Bona team that won the NIT. His number has been retired. Others: Will Grant, Bills; Mike Montler, Bills.

54 – Henry Nowak, Canisius. Nowak graduated as the Golden Griffins’ all-time leading scorer and rebounder. Nowak was drafted by the NBA’s St. Louis Hawks, but he went to law school instead. Nowak ended up serving 18 years in Congress. Others: Fred Crawford, St. Bonaventure; Eugene Marve, Bills; Dale Schuelter, Braves.  

55 – Paul Maguire, Bills. His pro football career started when the AFL began in 1960 when he played in Los Angeles. The Bills added him in 1964, and he won two championships. After retiring after the 1970 season, Paul moved smoothly into a long broadcasting career. Others: Jim Haslett, Bills; Jochen Hecht, Sabres; Rasmus Ristolainen, Sabres; Jerry Hughes, Bills.

56 – Darryl Talley, Bills. The linebacker was a second-round pick by the Bills in 1983, and he stayed through 1994. Talley is considered one of the best players in his position during his era, and was a big part of Buffalo’s Super Bowl teams. Others: Sam Cowart, Bills; Keith Ellison, Bills, Archie Matsos, Bills.

57 – Tyler Myers, Sabres. The 6-foot-8 defensemen didn’t need much time to make an impression after he was a first-round pick in 2008. He won the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s top rookie in 2010. But his play slipped after a while and eventually he was dealt to the Jets. Others: Lucius Sanford, Bills; Lorenzo Alexander, Bills; Steve Heinze, Sabres.  

58 – Mike Stratton, Bills. He ranks as one of the great linebackers in Bills history. Mike was picked as an All-AFL first-teamer for six straight years, and is on the Bills’ Wall of Fame. He’s best remembered for a hit on Keith Lincoln in the 1964 AFL title game. Others: Shane Conlan, Bills; Isiah Robertson, Bills.

59 – London Fletcher, Bills. This was one of the best free-agent signings in Buffalo’s history. Fletcher joined the Bills from the Cardinals, and he led the NFL in tackles in his first season (2002). London stayed five years before going to Washington. Others: Sam Rogers, Bills; Shane Nelson, Bills; Paul Guidry, Bills.

60 – Jerry Ostroski, Bills. For a tenth-round draft choice, the offensive lineman worked out quite well. He played in 106 games over the course of 10 years, and started at guard, center and tackle along the way. A knee injury ended his career in 2001. Others: Kraig Urbik, Bills; Dave Behrman, Bills.

61 – Bob Kalsu, Bills. Kalsu made the ultimate sacrifice for his country during the War in Vietnam. The All-American for Oklahoma was a starting guard as a rookie for the Bills in 1968. Then he joined the U.S. Army. Kalsu was killed in action on July 21, 1970. Others: Maxim Afinogenov, Sabres; Willie Parker, Bills; Dusty Zeigler, Bills.

62 – Jeff Yeates, Bills. The defensive lineman played for his hometown team after suiting up for Cardinal O’Hara in Tonawanda. He spent parts of three seasons with the Bills, and then had a long stay with Atlanta. This is the first number, counting up numerically, that has never been worn by a Sabre. Others: Ervin Parker, Bills; Dick Cunningham, Bills.

63 – Tyler Ennis, Sabres. The 5-9 forward was a first-round draft pick in 2008. Ennis had his best season as a rookie, with 49 points, and he finished with three 20-goal seasons as a Sabre. After two injury-filled years, Ennis was traded to Minnesota. Others: Adam Lingner, Bills; Geoff Hangartner, Bills; Tom Montour, Bandits.

64 – Harry Jacobs, Bills. He was the middle linebacker for the great unit of the Bills’ glory days in the mid-1960s, teaming with John Tracey and Mike Stratton. They played 62 games together, a pro football record. Harry played in all ten of the American Football League’s seasons. Other: Richie Incognito, Bills.

65 – Mark Napier - Sabres. The veteran forward requested this number because of his involvement with “65 Roses,” a group involved in the fight against cystic fibrosis. Napier had his best days with Montreal, but finished his good-sized career in Buffalo.  Others: John Davis, Bills; Tim Vogler, Bills; Dave DiRuscio, Bandits.

66 – Billy Shaw, Bills. The offensive lineman came out of Georgia Tech as a 14th-round draft pick. He was all-AFL seven times, and helped the Bills win two championships. Shaw is the only member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame who never played a game in the NFL. Others: Jerry Crafts, Bills; Mike Thompson, Bandits; Ed Ellis, UB.

67 – Kent Hull, Bills. He was one of the most beloved members of the Buffalo teams that reached four straight Super Bowls. Hull was signed after a stint with the New Jersey Generals in the USFL, and then played 11 years – starting all but one game. He retired after the 1996 season. Others: Reggie McKenzie, Bills; Joe O’Donnell, Bills.

68 – Joe DeLamielleure, Bills. The offensive lineman was an All-American at Michigan State, and went in the first round to Buffalo in the 1973 draft. “Joe D” stayed here through 1979, and then played for the Browns. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2003. Others: Mike Williams, Bills; Langston Walker, Bills; Corbin Lacina, Bills.

69 – Larry Costello, Niagara. He played 69 minutes for the Purple Eagles in a famous basketball game against Siena in 1953. That prompted him to change numbers from #24 to #69. Larry was a second-round pick of Philadelphia in 1954, and was a player or coach for more than 30 more years. Others: Will Wolford, Bills; Conrad Dobler, Bills.

70 – Tom Sestak, Bills. He was a 17th-round pick by the Bills out of McNeese State, and found a home as a defensive tackle right away. Tom quickly became one of the most dominating defenders in the game. His career was cut short by a knee injury, and that’s why he’s not in the Hall of Fame: Others: Eric Wood, Bills; Joe Devlin, Bills; John Fina, Bills.

71 – Jason Peters, Bills. He was one of the great undrafted rookie signings in Bills’ history. Peters was raw coming out of Arkansas, but eventually developed into an All-Pro offensive tackle. His relations with the team soured over contract issues, and Peters was traded to the Eagles in 2009. Others: Mike Kadish, Bills; Mack Yoho, Bills; Brandon Goodwin, Bandits.  

72 – Ron McDole, Bills. The defensive end had one of the great nicknames in team history – “The Dancing Bear.” McDole was a Bill from 1963 until 1970, and combined size and speed to become a top defender. The Bills traded the 32-year-old to the Redskins in 1971, and he played eight years there. Others: Ken Jones, Bills; Art Still, Bills; Luke Adam, Sabres.

73 – Gerry Philbin, UB. He was a four-year starter on the defensive line for the Bulls, earning several honors. Philbin was a third-round pick of the Jets in 1964, and he became a two-time All-AFL pick and played a key part in New York’s Super Bowl win over the Colts in 1969. Others: Jon Borchardt, Bills; Earl Edwards, Bills; Cory Bomberry, Bandits.

74 – Jay McKee, Sabres. The defenseman was a No. 1 draft choice of the Sabres in 1995. He arrived on the roster a year later, and stayed 10 years. Jay became known as one of the best shot-blockers in franchise history. He finished up his career with St. Louis and Pittsburgh. Others: Glenn Parker, Bills; Donnie Green, Bills; Jeremy Thompson, Bandits.

75 – Howard Ballard, Bills. He wasn’t really as big as a house, but at 6-foot-6 and 325 pounds, he earned that as a nickname. The 11th-round pick was something of a project as an offensive tackle when he was drafted out of Alabama A&M. He made two Pro Bowls before going to the Seahawks. Others:  Marcellus Wiley, Bills, Jay Thorimbert, Bandits; Jonas Jennings, Bills.

76 – Fred Smerlas, Bills. The defensive tackle’s selection in 1979 showed the Bills were serious about improving their defense, and he worked out perfectly. The Boston College graduate made five Pro Bowls, filling up plenty of space in the middle of the line along the way. Others: Andrew Peters, Sabres; Wayne Primeau, Sabres; John Miller, Bills.

77 – Pierre Turgeon, Sabres. He was the second player ever taken first overall by the Sabres (1987). Turgeon was very good at times in Buffalo, but might be best remembered as the centerpiece in the deal that brought Pat LaFontaine here. Pierre did finish with 500+ goals. Others: Ben Williams, Bills; Stew Barber, Bills; Cordy Glenn, Bills.

78 – Bruce Smith, Bills. Buffalo had the first overall pick in 1985, and wisely took the defensive end from Virginia Tech. He merely set the NFL sacks and led the Bills’ defense in four Super Bowl appearances, terrorizing QBs along the way. Bruce might be the best defensive end to ever play football. Others: Jim Dunaway, Bills; Dave Foley, Bills; Jordan Durston, Bandits.

79 – Ruben Brown, Bills. The offensive guard wasted no time becoming the best player on the Bills’ offensive line as a rookie in 1995. A starter from Day One, he played nine years here and made eight Pro Bowls. Brown finished his career with the Bears, and started all 181 games of his career. Others: Dick Hudson, Bills; Eric Pears, Bills.

80 – Eric Moulds, Bills. It took Moulds a couple of years to grab a starting spot at wide receiver. Once he did, though, he was invaluable to the Buffalo offense. Eric caught 675 passes in his 10 years as a Bill, including a total of 100 in 2002. He also caught nine balls for 240 yards in a 1998 playoff game. Others: Jerry Butler, Bills; James Lofton, Bills; Geoff Sanderson, Sabres.

81 – Miroslav Satan, Sabres. The forward played for five different teams, but his best work was done here. Satan spent seven full seasons as a Sabre and had at least 20 goals in all of them – topped by 40 in 1998-99. He led the team in scoring six different times. Others: Bob Chandler, Bills; Peerless Price, Bills; Roger Vyse, Bandits.

82 – Frank Lewis, Bills. The wide receiver spent the second half of his career here after a stint in Pittsburgh, and he still could catch a deep pass once he put on a Buffalo uniform. Lewis had his best year in 1981 at the age of 34, catching 70 balls for 1,244 yards. He finished with 269 receptions as a Bill. Others: Don Beebe, Bills; Josh Reed, Bills, Marcus Foligno, Sabres.

83 – Andre Reed, Bills. He is Kutztown University’s contribution to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Reed was a fourth-round draft choice in 1985, and he became an immediate starter. Once Jim Kelly showed up a year later, the Bills had a throw-catch combination for more than a decade. Others: Lee Evans, Bills; Chet Mutryn, AAFC Bills; Sherman White, Bills; Darrick Branch, Destroyers.

84 – Ernie Warlick, Bills. The tight end only played in four seasons in Buffalo, but they were good ones. Warlick won two championships with the Bills. Twice he averaged more than 20 yards per catch, amazing for a tight end. Warlick later became a popular sports broadcaster in Buffalo. Others: Scott Chandler, Bills; Keith McKeller, Bills; Brandon Francis, Bandits.

85 – Kevin Everett, Bills. The tight end was drafted out of Miami (Fla) in the third round in 2005. In the opener in 2006, Everett suffered a severe neck injury on a kickoff that was considered “life-threatening.” He was forced to retire, but beat the odds to walk again. Others: Walt Patulski, Bills; Jay Riemersma, Bills; Charles Clay, Bills.

86 – Marlin Briscoe, Bills. He had a very odd-looking pro football career. Marlin is best remembered as one of pro football’s first African-American quarterbacks (Denver, 1968). When he moved to Buffalo a year later, he was a wide receiver. Briscoe caught 133 passes in three years as a Bill. Others: Mark Brammer, Bills; Dave Washington, Bills.

87 – Paul Seymour, Bills. He may have played tight end for the Bills in 1973, but he was best-known as a blocker and not a receiver. Seymour was a big part of the offensive line that helped O.J. Simpson rush for 2,003 yards that season. He only missed one game during a five-year career in Buffalo. Others: Butch Rolle, Bills; LaVerne Torczon, Bills.

88 – Tom Day, Bills. “Tippy” spent seven years as a Bill, and was an excellent defensive end during that time in the 1960s. He also was something of the center of the locker room, quick with a joke and a laugh. Day wore #88 for three seasons – winning two AFL crowds in that uniform. Others: Pete Metzelaars, Bills; Reuben Gant, Bills.

89 – Steve Tasker, Bills. It’s not easy to make a name for yourself playing special teams, but Tasker did that. He played in seven Pro Bowls in 12 years as a Bill, and was named the game’s Most Valuable Player in one of them (1993). Since then, he had a fine career in broadcasting on a national and local level. Others: Alexander Mogilny, Sabres; Lou Piccone, Bills.

90 – Phil Hansen, Bills. The defensive end was used to winning, playing on a pair of Division II national champions for North Dakota State. Then Hansen was drafted by the Bills in 1991, and contributed to three Super Bowl teams in Buffalo. He’s on the Wall of Fame at New Era Field. Others: Chris Kelsay, Bills; Ryan O’Reilly, Sabres; Clark Gillies, Sabres.

91 – Jeff Wright, Bills. The nose tackle had a short career but a significant one. He arrived in 1988 as an eighth-round draft pick from Central Missouri State, and left in 1994. In between, Wright played in four Super Bowls and had 31.5 sacks. After retirement, he went into the cattle business. Others: Manny Lawson, Bills; Ken “Baby” Johnson, Bills.

92 – Dhane Smith, Bandits. Buffalo hasn’t had that many Most Valuable Players on its teams’ rosters over the years. Smith is on the short list, earning that honor for his spectacular 2016 season. Dhane broke a variety of team and league records for scoring that season. He was a top draft pick in 2012. Others: Ted Washington, Bills; Ryan Denney, Bills.  

93 – Pat Williams, Bills. He was undrafted coming out of Texas A&M, and it took some time to figure pro football out. But by 2001, his fifth year, he was ready to claim a starting job. Williams held it for four seasons, and then jumped to the Vikings as a free agent. Others: Doug Gilmour, Sabres; Bobby DiNunzio, Blizzard; Anthony Malcom, Bandits.

94 – Aaron Schobel, Bills. You almost had to be in Buffalo to know how good Schobel was – or at least played against him. The second-round pick in 2001 had 78 sacks in 133 games as a Bill. He retired in 2009 after nine years, and never played with any other team. His quiet exit was in character. Others: Mario Williams, Bills; Mark Pike, Bills.

95 – Kyle Williams, Bills. Here’s one of the great draft bargains in Bills’ history. He was a fifth-round pick in 2006, and has started every game at defensive tackle since his rookie year ended. Williams has become a beloved figure among Bills’ fans, who were thrilled when he finally reached the playoffs last season. Others: Bryce Paup, Bills; Sam Adams, Bills.

96 – Leon Seals, Bills. Here’s a defensive end who arrived in Buffalo with a memorable nickname, “Dr. Sack.” He came out of Jackson State as a fourth-round pick in 1987. Leon stayed in Buffalo for five seasons, and two of them were Bills’ Super Bowl teams. Others: Jeff Posey, Bills; Torell Troup, Bills; Erik Flowers, Bills.

97 – Cornelius Bennett, Bills. He came to Buffalo in a spectacular three-way trade with the Colts that also involved the Rams. Bennett was famous described as “Mickey Mantle in cleats” by then-Bills general manager Bill Polian. The linebacker played in five Pro Bowls during a nine-year stay here. Others: Corbin Bryant, Bills; John McCargo, Bills.

98 – Ron Edwards, Bills. The defensive tackle came out of Texas A&M in the third round of 2001 and spent five seasons with the Bills. He started every game in 2002, and saw spot duty in other years. Then it was on to the Chiefs, where he was a regular for four of the next five seasons.  Others: Larry Tripplett, Bills; Dwan Edwards, Bills.

99 – Marcell Dareus, Bills. The defensive tackle was the third overall pick in the 2011 NFL draft. The Bills moved him right into the lineup. Dareus peaked in 2014 when he was named a first-team All-Pro. But his play slipped and eventually he was traded to the Jaguars in 2017. Others: Marcus Stroud, Bills; Hal Garner, Bills; Delby Powless, Bandits.