Andre Reed: Hall Of Fame Bound, One Last Celebration

2 Aug

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The last 15 years have been a real grind for us Bills fans. Aside from a couple of brilliant starts, the results on the gridiron have disappointed.

The more shining moments during this stretch have been the chances to look back at the years we all remember so well. From Levy to Kelly to Thomas to Smith (with perhaps a little Lofton thrown in there as well), as our heroes get enshrined into the Hall of Fame, the emotions of those Sundays watching the Bills return. The K-Gun storming up and back. Bruce stalking quarterbacks and having them for lunch. The joy and the pain of reaching the ultimate stage 4 consecutive times, only to never realize the exhilaration of that Lombardi Trophy.

This weekend, we get what might be the last of these oases from the routine disappointment we’ve come to expect recently.

Andre Reed, the best receiver ever to call Rich Stadium home, gets his gold jacket. Levy will be presenting Andre. If you follow Patti Thomas on Twitter, you get to see all the action as the entire gang is back together.

Reed was not the flashiest guy in the league, which might be a reason it took him this long to be recognized by the Hall. He was a gritty grinder who emerged from Division II Kutztown State to become arguably the best receiver in the AFC of his time. The guy made the across-the-middle pattern his calling card, unafraid of taking the big hits from intimidating safeties in an era where receivers weren’t protected.

But it’s tough to remember him getting any big hits. That came down to a number of factors: his smart route running, having a quarterback in Kelly that knew how to keep his star target out of danger, and a quick-fire offense that kept defenses on their heels.

Of course, my biggest memory of Andre will always remain The Comeback. Three second half touchdowns, including the go-ahead score that set the stage for Al Del Greco’s tying field goal in the waning moments. The Bills kept coming; Reed kept finding those seams down the gut, and Kelly threaded the needle with pinpoint precision.

Hopefully you all get a chance to sit down tonight and soak in the ceremony. There ought to be some tear-jerking moments, with Jim Kelly still fighting for his life. There ought to be a huge contingency from Buffalo supporting Reed’s induction, and with all of the events of the last 12 months, it might just elicit something special to remember.

The ceremony will be a great prelude to the Hall of Fame Game, which will be the first paragraph in the closing chapter of the Ralph Wilson Era. We make much from the playoff drought. But regardless of this year’s results, one can’t help but imagine that a clear line of demarcation will occur after the 2014 season.

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