Picture it. West Seneca, New York, 1987. I sat in the auditorium of West Seneca East Junior High School waiting for my National Honor Society Induction to begin.
Nervous energy and hushed words buzzed through the crowd, all of us wondering who our “surprise guest” would be. Within ten minutes, Principal Kennedy started off the night’s festivities, explaining the importance of tonight’s event- a stall tactic for what everyone really wanted to know.
“And now it gives me great pleasure to introduce our very special guest for the evening,” said Mr. Kennedy. “Please welcome to the stage, from the Buffalo Bills, Mr. Andre Reed.”
Thunderous applause ripped through the auditorium, as Reed stepped out onto the stage, all decked out in a sharp purple suit.
My friend Amy leaned over and whispered into my ear, “Doesn’t he look sexy in his purple suit?”
“He looks good,” I agreed, waiting for my chance to meet my favorite all-time Bills player.
As I accepted my Honor Society Induction certificate on stage, Reed shook my free hand.
“Congratulations,” he said, flashing a warm smile.
My parents, two sisters and brother, and grandparents were thrilled to talk with Andre Reed after the ceremony.
“How do you think the Bills are going to do this year?” my grandfather asked Reed.
“I don’t know,” Reed said, smiling. “We will do our best.”
“Do you think you guys could go 8 and 8?” asked my father.
The Bills were coming off of losing 2-14 and 4-12 seasons. Jim Kelly had just finished his first year with the Bills, the Hall of Fame quarterback mobilizing his offensive forces for four consecutive Super Bowl appearances between 1991 and 1994.
“That would be good,” answered Reed about the upcoming 1987 season, the Bills ending up with a 7-8 record that year.
Similar to how some Bills fans feel today, hopes of advancing to the playoffs back then were swirling down the drain. However, General Manager Bill Pollian knew how to pick great players, the likes of Bruce Smith, Thurman Thomas, and Kent Hull creating a dominant Buffalo Bills team throughout the 1990s. Of course, Andre Reed stood as a major force in Bills history and a favorite target of “K-Gun” Jim Kelly.
The night of my induction, Reed made sure that everybody had a chance to get an autograph. He wrote his signature for three straight hours after the ceremony ended. I imagine he woke up with some major hand cramps in the morning!
My grandfather was so impressed with Reed taking the extra time to sign autographs that he called the Bills administration the next day. He expressed what a positive and friendly demeanor Reed showed toward the crowd and how he went “above and beyond” with signing autographs for people.
“Thank you Sir,” said the Bills receptionist. “It’s nice to get calls that are positive and not complaints. We greatly appreciate it and will let him Reed know.”
ABOVE AND BEYOND
Now, it is my turn to let Andre Reed know how much I appreciate his contribution to the Buffalo Bills. Who knew what an incredible player Reed would turn out to be? He is the best up-the-middle wide receiver I have ever witnessed, burning up yardage after the catch. With 951 receptions and 13,198 total yards, Reed went “above and beyond” on the playing field.
I miss seeing him play and the kind of player he exemplified. Reed was quiet, but never mouthed off to the press or found himself in legal trouble. You never heard of him assaulting a woman, taking drugs, or taking off on a hit-and-run.
Did he complain about his contract or making more money? Not that I can recall. Andre Reed just went out there and did his job. He played hard on every down, his love of football always shining through. He lived a clean life and a served as great example for kids, especially young athletes.
So, with that said, lets get the elephant out of the room. Why hasn’t Andre Reed been inducted into the Football Hall of Fame?
THE SUSAN LUCCI OF FOOTBALL
Playing 15 seasons with the Bills, the guy hardly ever missed a game. He played in all four Super Bowl appearances; yet, he has been shut out of the Hall of Fame six times.
It is starting to feel like the Susan Lucci syndrome, Lucci not winning the Emmy until her nineteenth nomination. How long does Reed have to wait? He has been nominated again this year.
ANDRE REED TALKS
“I just sit back and let the chips fall where they fall,” said Reed last year, as stated on www.buffalorumblings.com about his Hall of Fame nomination journey. “I’m not going to jump off a bridge or do something crazy if it doesn’t happen.” I’d be disappointed, but you’re only disappointed because of the way it went, you’re not disappointed because you have no control over what they do.”
I hope Andre Reed finally gets his Hall of Fame recognition this year. He deserves it and so do the Buffalo fans, who have supported and loved him for years.
Reed was an incredible athlete and playmaker, but most importantly, an all-around class act. I will be forever grateful for the hours of football enjoyment that he gave to me and the city of Buffalo.
I will never forget the night I met Andre Reed. Coming from a long line of sports fans, I was also able to give my family the pleasure of meeting him, their happy faces forever etched in my memory. Half of family who attended that night is in heaven now, but our special shared moment is always in my heart.
Mr. Reed, I hope that future induction is as memorable as mine. Thank you for being a part of it.