The Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame announced their 2012 class earlier this week. Among the group of inductees is former Buffalo Bills linebacker Harry Jacobs, who roamed the center of Buffalo's defense for two AFL championships and seven total seasons in the 1960s.
Jacobs joined the Bills in 1963, when new head coach Lou Saban convinced ownership to trade an undisclosed sum of money to the Patriots for his rights. Saban had coached Jacobs in Boston, and wanted him to be a member of his new defense in Buffalo. Jacobs proceeded to earn AFL All-Star honors twice in seven years.
Ange Coniglio, founder of the American Football League Hall of Fame and RemembertheAFL.com, is one person who is glad to see Jacobs finally get his due. Jacobs is a member of the AFL Hall of Fame, and Conigilio was kind enough to share some of his thoughts with Buffalo Rumblings.
"I don't know why he's overlooked, but I know why he shouldn't be," said Coniglio. "He was a vital part of the Bills' outstanding defense in their run of playoff years in 1963 through 1966."
The Bills' defense was formidable during a run that included their two AFL championships and four consecutive playoff appearances in an era when only a few teams made the playoffs each year.
"A lot of people talk about the wild AFL days, but ours was a solid defensive team," Jacobs told Sal Maiorana in 2010 for his book, Buffalo Bills: The Complete Illustrated History . "We had some good offensive players, but our defense won games for us."
In 1964, the defense notched 50 sacks, 37 turnovers, allowed 65.2 rushing yards per game and a 46.6 completion percentage, and surrendered just 242 points, which was the lowest in AFL that season. The stout unit set team and professional football records left and right, and was put in position by Jacobs, who called the plays on the field. Conigilio is quick to point these records out when explaining Jacobs' accomplishments.
"In 1965, Buffalo's defense, quarterbacked by Jacobs, surrendered only 226 points, which remains a team record," noted Coniglio. "With John Tracey and Mike Stratton, he filled out one of professional football's best linebacking units, which played together for 67 consecutive games from 1963 through 1967, a professional football record. That linebacking crew helped the Bills' defense hold opposing teams without a 100-yard rusher for seventeen consecutive games in 1964 and 1965, and achieve American Football League championships in both those years.
"He was called a coach in shoulder pads," continued Coniglio. "He mentored Marty Schottenheimer, who applied what he learned from Jacobs to a successful coaching career."
Jacobs played all ten seasons the AFL stood alone, and one additional season in the merged NFL with the New Orleans Saints. He is one of only 20 players with this claim to fame.
After moving to Buffalo in 1963, Jacobs and his family have remained in the area, and he occupies the same home today he did during his playing days. He spoke with BuffaloBills.com about his induction, and thanked team owner Ralph Wilson, Jr. for the opportunity.
"Ralph Wilson did a wonderful thing bringing me to Buffalo," said Jacobs. "Lou Saban obviously had a big hand in that, but Ralph kept me here. We’ve lived in the same home since I’ve been here, and all three of our children were born and raised here. Same house since 1966."
Here's the list of the entire 2012 Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame Class: Jacobs, George Carter, Rick Jeanneret, Kim Kaul, Eric Knuutila, Todd Miller, Frank Sachel, Joe Wolf, Craig Wolfley, Ron Wolfley, Nan Harvey, Stan Rojek, Wally Schan, and Lou Scozza. The date for the induction will be announced later this month.
Previous Bills players in the local sports Hall are Ruben Brown, Steve Christie, Joe DeLamielleure, Booker Edgerson, Joe Ferguson, Cookie Gilchrist, Jim Kelly, Jack Kemp, Paul Maguire, Andre Reed, George Saimes, Tom Sestak, Billy Shaw, O.J. Simpson, Steve Tasker, Darryl Talley, Butch Byrd, Shane Conlan, Elbert Dubenion, Kent Hull, Fred Smerlas, Bruce Smith, Mike Stratton, and Thurman Thomas.
Other Bills-related inductees are coaches Lou Saban, Marv Levy, and Jim McNally, along with former team trainer Ed Abromoski, general manager Bill Polian and founder/owner Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. The legendary voice of the Bills, Van Miller, is also an enshrinee.