this May 2, 2014 file photo, Andre Reed is introduced before
the inaugural Pro Football Hall of Fame Fan Fest at the
International Exposition Center in Cleveland. Reed awaits
induction to the Pro Football Hall of Fame this weekend, and
says the eight-year wait didn't feel that long.
BUFFALO, N.Y. —
There are two things receiver Andre Reed is most certain of in
preparing to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame this
wait to hear his name called really didn't feel that long. More
important, the timing of the announcement in February was fitting
given the sudden uncertainty hovering over his beloved Buffalo
Jim Kelly, the
Hall of Fame quarterback and face of the franchise, is in a
weakened state while battling cancer. And Ralph Wilson, the team's
Hall of Fame owner, died in March. The Bills are on the market,
with concerns of the franchise potentially relocating under a new
As a result, Reed
views his induction as something capable of providing anyone who's
ever had a connection to the Bills a joyous diversion by giving
them a reason to celebrate Saturday night.
bigger than me," Reed said. "We all know what's going on
with the team and all that stuff. This is like a breath of fresh
air. I'm glad I'm at the forefront of this, because there's
something to be happy about."
Kutztown State, a Division II school in Pennsylvania, to Canton,
Ohio, Reed sparked more than a few celebrations during his 16-year
NFL career, the first 15 spent in Buffalo.
When he retired
after the 2000 season, Reed ranked third on the NFL list with 951
catches, fourth with 13,198 yards receiving and sixth with 87
touchdowns receiving. He was an integral part of a
Kelly-quarterbacked and Marv Levy-coached team that won four
consecutive AFC championships from 1990-93, but each time lost in
the Super Bowl.
The team was
built by former general manager Bill Polian, and has now produced
six Hall of Famers, rounded out by Kelly, Levy, defensive end
Bruce Smith, running back Thurman Thomas and receiver James
was considered by many long overdue.
goodness," said Polian, who worried whether Reed's chances
had passed him by. "I mean, there was no better receiver in
football than Andre Reed when he played, and only Jerry Rice, in
my humble opinion, is in the same breath."
Though Rice had
the numbers and Super Bowl rings, Reed helped revolutionize the
slot receiver position.
Despite a wiry,
6-foot-2, 190-pound frame, Reed was fearless in going across the
middle to make catches in traffic in what was dubbed the Bills'
"K-Gun" no-huddle offense.
"He was a
slot receiver long before there was such a position," Polian
said, noting that defenses first used linebackers to cover Reed.
"He had to go in there in that traffic and do very heavy
Reed was driven
to prove himself after going mostly overlooked before the Bills
drafted him with the 86th pick in 1985.
He can still
recall being seated on the same flight as Smith — the Bills' No.
1 draft pick — on his first trip to Buffalo.
"I was young
and raw," Reed recalled. "I came from humble beginnings.
I'm not saying nobody else did, but I had to be better than
everybody else to get that eye looking at me."
finally found him. Reed was a seven-time Pro Bowl selection. He
became Kelly's most trusted target, with the two hooking up 663
times to set an NFL record which was eventually broken by the
Indianapolis combination of Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison in
teammate-turned-broadcaster Steve Tasker recalled how Reed
maintained his competitive desire after he retired.
That was apparent
in 2002, during a flag football game for charity between teams
headed by Kelly and former Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino.
"As we break
the huddle, Andre can't help it. He goes: 'Hey, right here,
bro.'" Tasker said with a laugh, recalling how much Reed
wanted the ball even in a game with nothing on the line. "Jim
stands up and says, 'Are you joking?' It was just like clockwork.
It was hilarious."
For Reed, the
Hall of Fame festivities will serve as a reunion and include
Kelly, who is strong enough to make the trip.
to be real special to see him there," Reed said. "It's
like your whole family being there."
The only one
missing will be Ralph Wilson.
to be the only person, the most important person, that's not going
to be there," Reed said. "But we all hold his spirit.
And we all hold what he meant to football, what he meant to