Yesterday, the Buffalo Bills announced that during the halftime intermission of the highly anticipated Week 2 Thursday Night Home Opener vs the New York Jets that the halftime show would get a bit of a blast from the past. The return of Bruce Smith.

Unfortunately Bruce isn’t suiting up (I would pay full admission just for that). But this is the final bow of Bruce Smith’s first ballot Hall of Fame career. I have always looked at Bruce Smith the player as a man among boys on the football field. An outright terror on the defensive line. John Elway and Dan Marino in particular were robbed of extending their playoff runs and possibly Super Bowl berths because they knew HAMMER TIME was coming.

Bruce Smith Hammer Time
(AP Photo)

As a quarterback you had two choices playing against Bruce Smith. Either throw the ball early or take a back-breaking hit. Case in point Boomer Esiason. October 9th, 1995. Esiason was working his way towards the twilight of his career. Bruce Smith should have been as well, being in the NFL for a decade. But the term “out of his prime” never applied to 78. Boomer dropped back, Bruce did his patented double swim move on the offensive tackle and that was all she wrote. Down goes Esaison!. He stayed down motionless for minutes on the field. Many wondered if that was the Joe Theismann moment of Boomer’s career. Had a hit like this been laid down on a quarterback in 2016’s NFL, he would at least be fined or maybe even suspended for a game or two. But this was a different time. A time where football was football. The hit on Esaison was regarded by Boomer himself as the hardest hit he ever took in his career. A concussion was diagnosed, but Bruce was just playing the game something that is slowly but surely slipping away in today’s NFL. Although, the NFL today has defensive stars like Khalil Mack and JJ Watt, both players would have a fine looming over their head if they channel their inner 78.

Bruce Smith was really in many ways one of the last of the Mohicans. Bruce Smith was a defensive cornerstone that I don’t think we will see much of ever again. Among the many great decisions Bill Polian made during his Hall of Fame career I would say Bruce Smith was the easiest being he was the best defensive player in the 1985 NFL Draft, but with Jim Kelly playing in the USFL instead of the NFL, Buffalo was left without a quarterback. Many debated whether the Bills would select then-Heisman Trophy winner Doug Flutie. Thankfully, the Bills didn’t and Bills fans saw everything come full circle during the best days of Doug Flutie’s career. Although Smith never won a Super Bowl, to me, that doesn’t matter. He did something that most players picked first overall in an NFL Draft fail to do. Achieve. Four straight Super Bowl appearances is nothing to scoff at, 200 career sacks is nothing to scoff at, getting your number retired by the franchise you played your heart out for, well, that is priceless. If I could write one thing to Bruce Smith it would say… “To Bruuuuuuuuce. Thank You. From A die-hard Buffalo Bills fan.”

 

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