It was a logjam that needed a major breakthrough if there was ever going to be a change in the fate of perennial Hall of Fame finalist Andre Reed. With fellow receiver Cris Carter gaining entry into the Hall in 2013, Reed's path appeared to be cleared for 2014. The Hall of Fame Selectors confirmed that contention selecting the Bills all-time leading receiver for enshrinement as part of the 2014 induction class for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
"What can I say? There are so many things, emotions right now," Reed told Buffalobills.com. "I want to thank the Bills, the organization, the fans all the support I had over the years. This is for you guys because I wouldn't have done this without the fans and my teammates, Bruce and Thurman and Jim and all those guys. I could go on and on, but next to my kids this is probably the highlight of my life and to do it all in Buffalo is really special. So thanks to everyone, I appreciate it."
Reed still had receiver competition among the 15 Hall of Fame finalists this year in Tim Brown and first-year ballot finalist Marvin Harrison. The Bills Wall of Famer however, had been the only receiver that advanced to the final 10 in the first reduction vote each of the past three seasons. The only remaining hurdle for Reed was making the last cut to final five for an up or down vote by the Selectors. Once he did, the seven-time Pro Bowl wideout got the necessary 80 percent of the vote required for enshrinement.
Reed's enshrinement will be on Sat. Aug. 2 in Canton at Fawcett Stadium.
It was a long wait for Reed, who earned induction in his ninth year of eligibility. This was the eighth year Reed has been a Hall of Fame finalist. His selection as a 2014 Hall of Fame inductee comes as a belated birthday present as Reed turned 50 this past Wednesday.
Reed becomes the 10th Bills Hall of Fame representative in team history joining Joe DeLamielleure, Jim Kelly, Marv Levy, James Lofton, Billy Shaw, O.J. Simpson, Bruce Smith, Thurman Thomas and Ralph Wilson Jr.
"When you talk about an all-time great receiver for the Bills and all-time receiver in the NFL you have to mention Andre Reed," said Thomas. "It's a great honor for Andre and his family and the rest of us that played with him."
When Reed retired after the 2000 season he was third on the NFL's all-time receptions list. He's still 11th in NFL history in career receptions (951) and is 13th all-time in receiving yards with 13,198. His 13 seasons, including nine consecutive, with 50-plus receptions is exceeded only by Jerry Rice and Tony Gonzalez. Reed was also named to seven straight Pro Bowls in his career (1989-95).
"He's one of the greatest wide receivers ever to play the game," said Jim Kelly flatly. "You look at his numbers they speak for themselves. You have to look at that. And when you look at some of the guys that are in (the Hall), if you put Lynn Swann and John Stallworth's numbers together Andre beats them both combined. That's enough to tell you how deserving Andre is."
Reed's longevity was almost as impressive as his production having played 16 NFL seasons despite doing the dirty work as he made most of his career receptions over the middle where hard-hitting linebackers and safeties often lurked. Year in and year out Reed was there.
"He was dependable," said former teammate Steve Tasker. "He was strong, a really strong receiver. He was one of those guys that was physically dominating against defensive backs. They couldn't manhandle him. Once he had the ball in his hands he was difficult to tackle. He was really good in tight spaces. When Jim (Kelly) looked for him he was there. That was the secret to their success, their friendship and respect for each other. "
"He was so strong," said Kelly. "I knew that he was a much better receiver inside than outside and there were not too many people that could bump him on the line of scrimmage. His quickness in the middle was probably his number one asset, but once he got the football he knew what to do with it. He knew that if he had to outrun somebody he could do it, and he knew if he had to run through somebody he could do it. He was put together pretty well. Him inside against anybody always looked like a good option to me."
Kelly and Reed held the NFL record for most touchdown receptions (87) until it was eclipsed by the Colts tandem of Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison.
One of the main reasons Kelly loved throwing to Reed so much was because it was often low risk and high reward.
"He was really good at running the short route and turning it into a long gain," said Tasker. "Jim (Kelly) loved it because it was an easy throw for a lot of yards. We all loved it because he could turn a nothing five-yard completion into a 65-yard touchdown. That's what Andre's gift was."
While Reed's teammates knew what he meant to their success his opponents respected his talents even more. Dolphins Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Marino spent many games watching helplessly from the sideline as Reed made game-changing plays.
"I saw a great player," Marino said. "Andre Reed was an incredible player for so many years. I would kind of wish that he wouldn't play so well against us all the time. He deserves that honor and I'm sure it will be a special day for him."