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Hall of Fame

Bills' Reed finally gets the call

Maybe you didn't hear them but I'm betting there were cheers all across Western New York on Saturday as Bills fans received word that Andre Reed was finally elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

 I'm sure you felt like I did, as a combination of joy and pride took over your body.  Bills Nation was once again able to stick out its collective chest and celebrate one of the greatest players in franchise history receiving the ultimate individual honor.

It was an honor long overdue for Reed, who was a finalist for the eighth time and will become the 10th member of the Bills organization to be enshrined in Canton, Ohio.  Reed's resume was never in question but  an annual logjam at receiver kept the Kutztown State product from joining  teammates Jim Kelly, Thurman Thomas, Bruce Smith and James Lofton as well as his head coach Marv Levy.  

Reed recorded 951 catches for 13,198 yards and 87 touchdowns over 16 years in the NFL.  When he retired following the 2000 season, Reed was third in catches and sixth in yards.  The increase in reliance on the passing game and rules changes designed to help that part of the game have made it easier for receivers to put up similar numbers.  13 years after his final game in the league, Reed now stands 11th in catches and 13th in yards.

Perhaps the voters who knew Reed deserved to be in the Hall of Fame also knew it might be tougher for Reed with Marvin Harrison and Tim Brown quite likely earning election in the future and with the likes of Randy Moss, Terrell Owens and Isaac Bruce coming up for consideration down the road.

Reed's career as a Bill was phenomenal but it can sometimes get pushed into the background since he played along side the greatest quarterback in franchise history, the greatest defensive player and if not the greatest, then the second greatest running back.

 While Reed wasn't always the focal point of the offense, he was a tremendous weapon.  Whether it was his reliable hands, his route running, his toughness in making catches over the middle, his run after catch ability or his clutch performances in the playoffs, Reed did it all in 15 seasons with the Bills.  He was also one of the best conditioned players to ever put on a Bills uniform.  Every summer when Reed reported for training camp, he was absolutely chiseled.  

I'll always consider myself incredibly fortunate to have covered the great Bills teams of the early 1990's.  They were some of the most entertaining games and some of the most interesting athletes I have seen in my nearly 25 years of working in Buffalo.  Buffalo and the Bills were the envy of many fans around the NFL because of the way the team played and the success they had.  Regular season victories were expected, not hoped for, and playoff games were an annual part of the schedule.

I don't dwell on the past but certainly the Bills struggles over the last 13 years have increased the fondness we have for those great teams as we yearn for those special days to return.  Andre Reed, like so many of his teammates back then, had a burning desire to win and to be the best.  It's what drove Reed and the rest to the top of the AFC each year.  

Reed belonged in the Hall of Fame and come August 2nd he will take his place in football history.  My guess is he will be the final member of those great Bills teams to be so honored.  Players like Steve Tasker, Darryl Talley, Cornelius Bennett and the late Kent Hull were great at their respective positions but I don't think any of them will be elected to the Hall of Fame.

 Tasker's chances might get a boost from the induction of Raiders punter Ray Guy, which is a nod to special teams, but I still think its a longshot.

That should make this year's induction ceremony even more special as it gives Bills Nation one more chance to make the trip to Canton and express its love for a very special group of players and teams that we will remember for the rest of our lives.