Andre Reed is the all-time leading receiver in most of the categories in Buffalo Bills franchise annals. We recently had the opportunity to talk to Reed about the current Buffalo Bills, defenseless receivers, and what's next for him. He's partnering with a company called Thuzio ("thoo-zee-oh"), connecting fans with athletes.
It was started by Tiki Barber a couple years ago and a lot of athletes are involved with it. It's just a way to interact with fans. If you go on the website you'll see a lot of different athletes like doing different stuff - all the way from a video message to maybe having to dinner with somebody or going to a football game with somebody. Those type of things, doing to a party. There's a lot of things - autograph sessions, appearances are all involved with the company. It's a great way for players to get out there on their own and develop their own brand but make a little money on the side while they're doing it.
What person or place do you have to visit?
I have to go to the Big Tree all the time. It's an iconic place in Buffalo as far as I'm concerned. Right there in Orchard Park on the corner of 20A and Abbott Road right by the stadium. It's very iconic in its own way not only its affiliation with the Bills and the players but what they have brought to the city as far as Buffalo goes. I think every player that's played there - at least when I played there - the Big Tree has always been a part of us hanging out there. It was great for camaraderie. It was great to meet people and meet fans up close instead of them just seeing you on the field. They talk to you and they talk to you as a person and the Big Tree is instrumental in that. They have a lot of stuff on the walls - memorabilia - and I've known the owner since I first stepped foot in Buffalo in 1985. It's probably the one place and there's a bunch of other and the list has changed over the years but the Big Tree is syonymous with me and probably the first place I went to in Buffalo. Game day is awesome there. On game day you have to stop by "The Tree."
On current wide receiver comparing to his game:
There's so many different guys. The league has changed in a lot of ways. People don't realize during my heyday with the no-huddle offense we ran the ball during our Super Bowl years when we were tearing up the league we were 52 to 48 run to pass. I think if you look at the league as a whole now - despite what Adrian Peterson has done and a couple of these other guys having great years running the ball - it's a passing league. I think a guy like Victor Cruz is - maybe not to me but to a lot of people - a close resemblance of the way I played the game. Wes Welker does a lot of what I used to do first with New England and now up in Denver. I like a guy here is Keenan Allen the rookie guy here in San Diego for the Chargers. There's probably four or five other guys but those are off the top of my head.
On going over the middle and protecting defenseless receivers:
I'd be the first one to say watching the game the last few years, the league is definitelyall about protecting the players. It's not like they didn't protect the players when I played but I think they're more obvious that they're protecting the players now than they were years ago because of concussions. I was defenseless every time I came out there. I took massive hits and there was no flag. If you look at probably ten hits that were close to above the numbers, nine or ten of them they get flagged for now. The league as a whole is trying to do better to protect the player but some of the calls are a little bit crazy. Guys have been getting fined but what about the player whose making the hit and protecting him, too? The league has been doing a good job at protecting the players but sometimes it's a little overkill on some. A lot of times these calls are important or cost teams games. A 15-yard penalty keep drives going and a team loses a game because of that. If you go back to watching some of these hits they look a little controversial. As a receiver, the game is predicated on being a violent game. It's what we chose. We've got to protect every player - not just the quarterback, the running back, the wide receiver - every position has to be protected because we're all in this together and if we're going to do this league-wide I think everybody needs to be protected in the same way.
On fan support for the Hall of Fame:
I appreciate all the fans and their support over the years - not only when I played but now going though this process going on nine years now. They've stuck by me and they've been in my corner. I appreciate the fans. They're the best fans in the country and the NFL, the fans in Buffalo. Every time I come back there I get the same kind of enjoyment from them that I did when I played. I appreciate them supporting me. I've talked about it for the last eight or nine years and I'm kind of running out of things to say about it. When it's my time it's my time. I hope it's this year so we can stop talking about it and join my teammates and those players that exemplify what the Hall of Fame is about. It would be a great honor not only for me as a person but my family, fans, all the people that have supported me other the years all throughout the league, through the nation that have been pulling for me. It's not confined to Buffalo, it's all over the country. People have been in my corner and expressed their opinion about why I'm not in there and this and that but I have nothing to do with that. I just let bygones be bygones and let the chips fall where they may and if it happens it's not on my time it's somebody else's. When it does it will be even more sweeter.
On watching the current Buffalo Bills:
I watch them a lot. I have my own radio show this year on satellite radio covering the Bills past, present, and future with Steve Tasker and Jim Kelly filling in really good. We've done it every Wednesday and we talk about the game they just played and the game they're going to play. We talk about the state of the team right now and what's going to go on and what we feel is going to go on after this. That's why it's called "No Huddle: Past, Present, and Future." It's really good to connect with the team in that kind of manner. I do go to games. I try to go to two or three every year. One or two in Buffalo and one or two on the road. We all have our opinions and I think my opinion is a little different as a player than just a regular fan of the game.
On the Bills contacting him to join the coaching staff:
I never was approached by them about anything so it wasn't really an issue to come back to Buffalo and coach there. I was in the minority fellowship program this year in Kansas City with Andy Reid and it was great fit for me and a great time to be there during the preseason and not only get back on the field and smell the grass and reminisce about the times you were on the field at training camp but be there and help out their receivers and make them better not only as players but as people. It was a clear opportunity that the Chiefs gave me. The Hunts - the owners of the team - and Andy gave me the opportunity. That's what life is about - taking advantage of an opportunity. Who knows what's going to happen. I'm actually coaching in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl this year in a couple weeks here in California. It's all about knowledge to these young kids and to get them ready for a new life. It's an honor to be there to coach these kids and tell them the stories and help them out.
On coaching versus broadcasting:
I don't really prefer either. I've been away from the game a little bit. I think coaching and being their with the opportunity to get back into the game. Broadcasting is another way to get back into the game to a certain point. I wouldn't say one or the other. I think they're both great. They both have done wonders for me. Again, the opportunity was there and I took advantage of it. Sometimes people want to hear you and your opinion. That's the radio show and then go on the field and use yourself as a teaching method for young kids and some of the veterans they have there. They look up to you. That's very positive for me and really listen to what I have to say.
On Jim Kelly's toughness comparing to EJ Manuel:
You can't really compare Jim to EJ or any other quarterback. Jim was his own quarterback. Jim might not have had the tangibles of Michael Vick or Randall Cunningham back in our day but the guy is a Hall of Famer and one of the best there ever did it. Through the intangible things he did have - his toughness, how he prepaed and how he prepared us - we were held accountable for what we did on the field and vice versa. He wanted to do well as much as us and if we all did well, we won. It's well-documented about what we did during those years and I had some Hall of Fame players around me, a Hall of Fame coach, Hall of Fame owner. I can talk to you hours and hours about this and Jim was just that solid guy in the locker room and on the field when you looked in his eyes you knew that regardless of what the score was that we believed in him and we believed that we could win any game at any time when we had that attitude in the huddle. And that's what he brought; toughness and ferocity and all these other words you can use. It's documented that that's why he went into the Hall of Fame. Yeah he had stats and this and that but I think he's known more for leading a team and being a leader and never quitting. That resonated through our whole team. We weren't quitters. Going to four Super Bowls in a row, you're not a quitter when you do that.
On meeting EJ:
I met him a couple weeks ago against the Jets. I finally got in the locker room to shake his hand and say hello. He's got an affiliation with [Reed's teammate] Bruce [Smith] and Bruce told me if I got a chance to meet him to shake his hand and talk to him for a little bit. He's a great kid. They drafted him for a reason and if he's the future of the team and the franchise quarterback they want him to be, he definitely has the tools to do it. People in Buffalo just have to be patient with him and even though he's been hurt a little bit, he;s going to get through this. This is kind of what you go through in the league. You're not going to be Peyton Manning or Tom Brady and even Manning and Brady go through ups and downs. I think we have to take this with a grain of salt. He'll work on some things he didn't do well this offseason and he's going to be better. I think the whole team is going to be better because they're a young team. They'll work with each other to get in tune with each other and on the same page that this is a team on the upswing. I think they'll contend next year for a playoff spot. I believe that and I'm sure fans will believe it, too. They've shown promise. They've shown they can win games and they have the tools and the people to do it.
On what he's doing now:
I have my own foundation that benefits my hometown and a lot of organizations there. I have a golf tournament there every year. Jim, Thurman come up and give a lot of support from my local brethern and athletes from a lot of places. I take pride in it and I'm proud of what the foundation is doing in my hometown and my family takes pride in what we do.
Thanks a lot to Thuzio for setting this up. If you want more information or to set something up with Andre or another athlete in the program, head to their website.