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Top 50 All-Time Bills, No. 37: TE Pete Metzelaars

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Former Bills TE Pete Metzelaars, one dude who enjoyed the 80's. <a href="">(photo source)</a>
Former Bills TE Pete Metzelaars, one dude who enjoyed the 80's. (photo source)

TE Pete Metzelaars (1985-1994) | 6'7", 254 lbs.

Notable Achievements: Retired as the all-time leader in games played by a TE (235), Member of Bills' 50th Anniversary Team

Peter Henry Metzelaars was born on May 24, 1960 in Three Rivers, Michigan. After graduating from Portage Central High where he was the starting quarterback on the football team and the starting center on the basketball team, Pete went on to star as a two-sport athlete at Wabash College.  He played for former Kansas State and current Ball State head coach Stan Parrish at Wabash. As was the case for much of his career, Metzelaars proved he was a hard-working overachiever that never took anything for granted when he was getting ready to go to college:

"I wasn't a standout, all-star kind of guy. I had some success, but not great success in high school so I wasn't getting recruited by any big-name schools and getting full-ride scholarship offers. It just came down to what I thought was going to be best for me and the best education I was going to get."

He was a standout at Wabash, both on the field and on the court, earning the nickname "The Wabash Cannonball".  After being recruited as a 190-pound quarterback, Metzelaars grew into a prototypical tight end.  He finished his career with 77 catches for 1,196 yards and nine touchdowns, and was named first team All-American in 1981.  He was much more prolific on the hardwood where he still holds a number of Wabash records.  He is currently second in school history with 1,976 points scored and first with 1,176 rebounds, having finished his career averaging 19.2 points and 11.4 rebounds per game.

Quite the athlete, that Metzelaars.

Pete is also a member of Wabash’s Athletic Hall of Fame and was named to the National Association of Basketball Coaches 2007 Silver Anniversary Team.  After his "legendary" college career, the Seattle Seahawks made Pete a third-round pick in 1982 with the No. 75 overall pick.  After suffereing through an injury riddled 1984 season, the Seahawks dealt him to the Bills in the offseason, where he went on to become one of the better all-around offensive players in team history.

Career Highlights
After three seasons in Seattle where he caught just 27 passes for 304 yards and 1 touchdown, the Bills acquired Metzelaars just prior to the 1985 season in exchange for their leading receiver from that past year, Byron Franklin.  He started 8 games his first season in Buffalo catching just 12 passes for 80 yards and a touchdown, while the team suffered through a miserable 2-14 campaign.  Jim Kelly arrived the next season and so did Metzelaars as a receiving threat.  While fans wanted a tight end with speed and big play ability, Metzelaars proved his worth as a receiver by utilizing his big frame and excellent hands.  With Kelly throwing passes, big Pete became an unexpected weapon for an ever improving Bills offense.  He had a knack for coming up with big catches on 3rd downs to keep drives alive or as a check down option for Kelly.  It was this way for ten seasons, Metzelaars proving an excellent blocker in the running game and a reliable option for Kelly in the passing game. 

After his rather unproductive first season in Buffalo, Metzelaars took when he finally had a talented QB to throw him the ball.  In 1986, Metzelaars bested his entire career totals by putting up 49 receptions for 485 yards and 3 touchdowns.  The 1987 strike shortened season saw a dip in Metzelaars' numbers as he finished with 28 receptions for 290 yards in 12 games.  His numbers rebounded a bit in 1988 as he finished with 33 catches for 438 yards, 1 touchdown and a healthy 13.3 yards per reception. 

Beginning in 1989, Metzelaars saw his receiving numbers drop as he became the blocking yin to Keith McKeller's receiving yang.  With the rise of the K-Gun offense, McKeller was more crucial to the success of the passing game, putting up 98 receptions for 1,239 yards and 10 touchdowns from 1989 to 1991.  In contrast, Metzelaars' role as a blocker limited him to just 33 receptions for 293 yards and 5 touchdowns during the three year stretch.  However, his blocking was a crucial part of Thurman Thomas' ascension to elite running back status.  With an injury to McKeller in week 1 against the Rams, Metzelaars would become a receiving weapon against as McKeller would miss two months.  For the season, Metzelaars would finish with 30 receptions for 298 yards and established a single season team record for tight ends with 6 touchdowns.  McKeller would have offseason knee surgery and miss the first nine games of the season, but was no longer much of a threat or option for Kelly and the passing game.  Metzelaars took full advantage of the opportunity with McKeller down, finishing the season with 68 receptions, which led the Bills that season.  The 68 receptions was the best ever for a Bills tight end while his 609 yards was the second most ever put up by a Bills tight end.  He also added 4 touchdowns.  In his final season in Buffalo, Metzelaars was again a productive weapon for the team as he added 49 receptions for 428 yards and 5 touchdowns. 

Following the 1994 season, Metzelaars would leave the team in free agency signing with the expansion Carolina Panthers, jloining other former Bills Don Beebe, Carlton Bailey, Frank Reich, Nate Turner and future Bill Shawn Price.  In Carolina Metzelaars and Reich would team up to become the answer to a very cool trivia question.  On September 3, 1995, Metzelaars scored the first regular season points in Panther history on an 8-yard reception from Reich during the team's opening loss to the Atlanta Falcons.  He would play the one season in Carolina before finishing his career with a couple of seasons in Detroit with the Lions.  Big Pete would finish his Bills career as one of the all-time leading receivers in team history.

Best Moment(s)
Metzelaars had a handful of big moments during his career.  His best game was probably his peformance in the famous "No Punt" game against the San Francisco 49ers early in the 1992 season.  He finished the game with 4 receptions for 113 yards and 2 touchdowns.  The touchdowns came on consecutive possessions in the 3rd quarter with the Bills trailing 24-13.  He first added a 53-yard catch and run touchdown, followed quickly by a 24-yarder from Jim Kelly.  It was one of two 100-yard receiving performances he had during his career.

Other highlights of Metzelaars' career included his 7 catch, 113-yard, 2 touchdown performance against the Bucs in 1986.  He also scored a 2-yard touchdown in Super Bowl XXVI against the Redskins.  Finally, the first touchdown in Panthers history is a big one for him and that franchise.

Parting Shot
Pete Metzelaars is one of the two best tight ends in franchise history, and most consider him the best.  He was selected the tight end for the Bills' 50th Anniversary team (sound).  His ability to use his massive frame to shield off defenders in the run game helped make him one of the best blocking tight ends in the league during his career.  As a receiver, he was hardly a big play threat, but was as reliable a target as Jim Kelly had.  He effectively used his body to his advantage and was a threat in the red zone due to his size.  His blend of powerful blocking and underrated receiving skills helped him stick with the Bills for 10 seasons and overall in the NFL for 16 seasons.  Despite playing for four teams, "Petey Wheat Straw" as he was known in the locker room as, will always be a Bill first and foremost. 

"It's hard to believe that a guy who's 6-foot-8 could be overshadowed, but Pete Metzelaars definitely was. In fact, our sequoia-sized tight end might have been the most overlooked and least appreciated player from our Super Bowl years.

Pete played a valuable role for us. He was our Kellen Winslow without the breakaway speed. People probably don't realize this, but Pete played more games at tight end than anyone in NFL history - 226 to be exact. And, believe you me, you don't hang around for that many games unless you're something special. Pete's longevity is attributable to three things he could do very well: pass block, run block, and catch anything thrown his way."
~Steve Tasker in his book, Tales From the Buffalo Bills, p.44-46

That's some high praise from a former Bills great.

Career Stats with the Bills
156 games, 112 starts
302 receptions (No. 4 in franchise history, No. 1 among TE)
2,921 yards (No. 11, No. 1 among TE)
25 touchdowns (No. 7, No. 1 among TE)

Former Bills TE Pete Metzelaars had his best career game against the 49ers in the "No Punt" game
(Photo Source)