This year, in honor of the NFL's 100th season and Buffalo's 60th season, the Bills will pay tribute to the individuals and moments that have contributed to franchise history. Recently, buffalobills.com caught up with Hall of Fame defensive end Bruce Smith, who played for the Bills from 1985-99 and spent 19 total seasons in the league. Smith, the NFL's all-time sack leader, a two-time AP Defensive Player of the Year, nine-time All-Pro and 11-time Pro Bowler, shared some highlights from his time in Buffalo and more.
1. What was your first impression of Buffalo once you arrived after being drafted?
My first impression of Buffalo was, I really didn't have something that was imprinted in my mind. I did think it was a little closer to New York but being a kid coming from a small town in Virginia, I wasn't exposed to a tremendous amount as far as geographically was concerned. I quickly realized that Buffalo was a long way from New York [though]. Having said that, I wasn't even aware of all of the extreme weather conditions that Buffalo experienced in the wintertime. However, I quickly found out my first year in Buffalo and quite frankly, that's one of the things that makes that region special – the resilience of the people, the toughness, the work ethic, their passion and so many other strong characteristics and traits.
Photos from Bruce Smith's Jersey Retirement Ceremony at New Era Field.
2. What is your favorite memory or moment from your time with the Bills?
My favorite memory, memories, they directly relate to my teammates and the relationships that I forged and built that have stood the test of time. My relationship with Marv [Levy], Bill [Polian], and Thurman [Thomas] and Jim [Kelly] and Darryl Talley and Cornelius Bennett and Steve Tasker and Chris Moore – just to name a few. My teammates have become my lifelong family members and that's something that I truly cherish.
3. What was your favorite thing about playing for the Bills?
The fans. Hands down. Yeah, it was just an incredible experience playing for the Buffalo Bills fans and I've said this many times over, it's easy to go out and play in temperatures where it's 80 degrees all year round, 70 degrees, or playing in a dome and you look up and see the stands filled with fans. But, when you're playing in Buffalo and you have these blue collar workers that come out to support you -- whether the sun is out or not, whether it's a blizzard-like conditions or not, It's 20 below in the playoffs -- that's the mark of a true fan. We led the league six years in a row in attendance. So, that in itself speaks volumes for the type of fans that we have in Buffalo. I consider them to be the best the league has got – particularly our era when we played.
4. When you were playing, did you have any game day rituals or superstitions?
No, I wouldn't say there were rituals. I would just say that I would like to stick to the same kind of formula or game plan pregame on a weekly basis and be consistent with it. It worked for me and that's something that I just stuck with – a certain routine that was proven to be beneficial to my rest and just being ready to go out and play four quarters.
5. [Does that mean] you had a strict diet…?
Well, I wouldn't say a strict diet. I would say, it was a lifestyle and one in which worked for me, one in which I took the advice and…We had a nutritional expert in Rusty Jones, who was very influential in steering us in the right direction of foods to eat that would give us the energy that we needed to go out and play in a game at a high level. Also, during the course of the week, he would give us a guideline of how to stay hydrated and just certain things to do and stay away from. That kept us from cramping up…when we would have to go down to play in Miami. So, Rusty Jones was worth his weight in gold.
6. Would you say it's these types of practices or [this] lifestyle that you attribute to being able to play in the NFL for so long?
I think there are different components that play a key part. There's obviously…one of the reasons or several reasons why my longevity was so long, was my God-given abilities, my coaching – from Marv to Wade [Phillips] to Ted Cottrell to Chuck Lester and so many others and I have to give a great deal of credit just to the way I approached the game. [For example], staying in shape year-round, as opposed to six months out of the year, my steady habits of studying film, conditioning and the lifestyle of eating foods that [were healthy and] staying away from fried foods and foods that would put weight on you. So, this formula worked for me and it proved to be successful and those were the things that I attribute my success to. But, for a while, one of the key things was having extremely smart coaches that took care of the players and took care of me.
7. What are some of your hobbies nowadays?
I play a lot of golf. That's what I spend a tremendous amount of time doing and just trying to make my community a little bit better and I'm also a real estate developer.