Joe DeLamielleure opened up holes for Buffalo Bills running backs from 1973 until 1979. He was a member of the vaunted "Electric Company" that "turned on the Juice," O.J. Simpson's nickname, and blocked for quarterback Joe Ferguson. He did that until 1980, when 30 years ago today, after attempting to trade him for months, the Bills completed a deal to send the All-Pro guard to the Cleveland Browns in exchange for the Browns' second-round choice in 1981 and their third-rounder in 1982. It was just over a month after DeLamielleure was named to the 1970's All-Decade squad.
Joe D was drafted by the Bills in the first round of the 1973 NFL Draft with the final spot in the first round. DeLamielleure worked with Bills coaches Jim Ringo and Lou Saban during the Senior Bowl, and they loved his versatility enough to pick him No. 26 overall. The pick was acquired from the perfect Miami Dolphins of 1972 for WR Marlin Briscoe. After initial fear over an irregular heartbeat almost ended his career before it began, the former Michigan State Spartan made an instant impact for the Bills and their running game.
Larry Felser, Joe D's Hall of Fame presenter, had this to say about the lineman's work ethic with the Bills:
When he was a rookie, drafted to give O.J. Simpson running room, he used to show up at the stadium when no one but the night watchman on duty. He would start his workouts at about 7, break for lunch, and return and stay until about 5 or 6. His coach, Lou Saban, worried about him, worried that he would overwork himself. For one of the few times in NFL history, a coach threw a player out of a weight room.
In 1973, Joe D won All-Rookie honors after opening hole after hole for Simpson anchoring the right side of the offensive line. In the first game of DeLamielleure's career, Simpson set the NFL's single-game record by rushing for 250 yards in a 31-13 win. The Bills were number one in rushing that season, Simpson became the first back in history to rush for 2,000 yards, and the team topped 3,000 yards on the ground.
Not only was he very good at what he did, he was incredibly durable, starting every game Buffalo played from 1973 until his trade to the Browns. The Bills led the league in rushing twice while DeLamielleure manned the right guard spot, and finished in the top ten in five of his first seven years in Buffalo.
After all those accolades for run blocking, Joe D was pigeon-holed as a just another run blocking guard. Ringo, the Bills' highly-seasoned offensive line coach, saw so much more than a run blocker in DeLamielleure, calling him "the best pass blocker I ever coached."
In all, he was named to the first or second All-Pro teams eight times, All-AFC first or second team seven times, and was a six-time Pro Bowler. In 1975, he was named Offensive Lineman of the Year by the Player's Association. He was named to the All-Decade team for the 1970s, and in 2003 he was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
After spending five years with the Browns, he was waived in September of the 1985 season and was picked up by Buffalo, where he finished his career as a member of the Bills. The team went 2-14 that year, and DeLamielleure started three games in his final season.