We asked and you responded. On Friday, we ran a post asking who your most beloved figure was in Buffalo Bills team history. The responses came pouring in, and today on Valentine's Day, let's celebrate.
First, a note on "beloved". The term means "dearly loved," or "dear to the heart". Many Bills fans told of their "favorite" Bills player, but in many cases those two terms overlap. You can be the judge and go through the comments section like I did.
As expected, the Super Bowl era teams dominated the debate. Winning in a closer-than-expected vote was quarterback Jim Kelly. Kelly was the face of the franchise for over a decade after riding into town with as much fanfare as anyone before or since. Since that time, Kelly has entrenched himself in the local community and started the extremely successful Hunter's Hope with his wife, Jill, to honor their late young son. Despite some character flaws that he outlined in his most recent book - and a fuzzy memory from taking too many shots to the head - Jim Kelly is currently the most beloved figure in team history.
Coming in a close second was perhaps the best player in team history. Pro Football Reference lists Bruce Smith as the top player in team history, and many fans cited that title when voting for Smith. He had great catchphrases, a couple of movie roles, and is the NFL's all-time sack leader. His big smile and personality endeared him to many fans.
Special teams ace Steve Tasker holds a special place in many fans' hearts, as well. Tasker, like Kelly, has made his post-NFL home here in Western New York, and can still be seen in car commercials, Bills programming, and on national NFL coverage. Tasker represents the blue collar mentality of Buffalo, and he was always a fan favorite.
Thurman Thomas and Andre Reed tied in the next spot. Neither had the big endorsements, but both rose from being passed over in the draft to Hall of Fame caliber careers. Thomas moved back to Buffalo after leaving post-career, and now owns businesses in the area, making quite a few appearances around the area. Reed has been in the news a lot for his Hall of Fame bid, but continues to hold a special place in Bills fans' memories for his time in Buffalo.
Bills owner Ralph Wilson, O.J. Simpson, Doug Flutie, Darryl Talley, Eric Moulds, Frank Reich and Kent Hull all received two nominations. Getting single votes were Drew Bledsoe, Fred Jackson, Jack Kemp, Kenneth Davis, Joe Cribbs, Fred Smerlas, Phil Hansen, Paul McGuire and Antoine Winfield. Other folks mentioned as second choices or on lists of favorites were Marv Levy, James Lofton and Jairus Byrd, whose community outreach in just his two NFL seasons has been astounding.
We hope you enjoyed this football look at Valentine's Day. Someday we can tell the Lombardi trophy to "Be Mine".