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April 19, 1997: Bills select Antowain Smith with 23rd pick

Posted Apr 19, 2014

On this date in Bills history, RB Antowain Smith from the University of Houston was the Bills' No. 1 pick (23rd overall) in the 1997 NFL Draft.


On this date in Bills history, RB Antowain Smith from the University of Houston was the Bills' No. 1 pick (23rd overall) in the 1997 NFL Draft.

Smith, who formed a tandem with Thurman Thomas during the 1997 season, went on to record one of the most prolific rookie campaigns in Bills team history. Here are some of the highlights from his dynamic rookie season:

  • The Houston product finished the season with eight touchdowns. His performance marked the third-most touchdowns by a Bills rookie rusher since the NFL merger in 1970.
  • Smith also finished the season as the team’s leading rusher with 840 yards on the ground—marking the first time since 1987 that a running back other than Thurman Thomas had led the Bills in rushing.
  • In a late September matchup versus Indianapolis, Smith tallied three touchdowns en route to becoming the first Bills rookie running back to ever cross the goal line three times in a game. RB Willis McGahee would go on to become the second Bills rookie back to ever achieve the feat when he ran for four TDs against Seattle in 2004.
  • To go along with his three scores, Smith averaged a whopping 10.3 yards per carry against the Colts as he tallied 129 yards on just 12 carries. His breakout performance ranks as the eighth-most rushing yards in a single game by a Bills rookie running back in team history.
  • Smith showed off the explosive running style that made him the Bills’ first pick continuously throughout the year, tallying 23 runs that went for more than 10 yards including a 56 yard touchdown dash against Detroit.      

Following his productive rookie season, Smith went on to play three more seasons for the Bills. The Houston product led the Bills in rushing again in 1998 when he tallied 1,124 yards and eight touchdowns on 300 carries. Smith is one of only 12 players in Bills’ history to rush for more than 1,000 yards in a season.