Walt Patulski was drafted first overall by the Buffalo Bills in the 1972 NFL Draft. Four years later, he was shipped out of town on this date for a second-round draft choice - and that was a steal for Buffalo.
Patulski was a high school football star in Central NY in the 1960s. He attended Christian Brothers Academy in Syracuse, but instead of going Orange chose the University of Notre Dame. In 1971, he was named an All-American and took home the Lombardi Award, given to the country's best lineman.
After a wildly successful pre-draft process, the Bills selected the Upstate New Yorker with the top pick in the draft. The Bills earned that right by fielding what some have called the worst team in club history. The squad went 1-13 amid coaching turmoil, as head coach John Rauch resigned close to the beginning of the season, forcing Harvey Johnson into his second stint as interim coach.The team lost their first ten games - with only one being close - before knocking off divisional opponent New England. Three more losses showed just how bad the team was.
Enter Patulski, who instantly added a pass rush to the Bills' defense. Though sacks were then an unofficial statistic, he's credited with leading the team in his rookie season with five, and seven in year two. In 1975, he torched future Hall of Fame OL Dan Dierdorf for two sacks in a game against the Cardinals.
That off-season, after registering only four sacks in 1975, the Bills parted ways with Patulski. The DE played only one season with the St. Louis Cardinals, but suffered a career-ending knee injury. In exchange for the pass rusher, the Bills got a second-round pick they used to select OT Joe Devlin, who had a stellar career in red, white, and blue.
Tim Graham at ESPN.com has named Patulski the worst draft bust in team history, calling his play "uninspiring." In 2007, Jeff Marron called Patulski one of the 14 worst No. 1 picks of all-time, regardless of sport.
Patulski, 61 now, is back living in Upstate New York, where he runs a brokerage firm and is a motivational speaker. He was awarded the key to the city of Syracuse for his community service through the Boys and Girls Club, and served for six years as the Commissioner of the Syracuse Board of Education.