Bills roundtable: Kelly, Tasker and Thomas talk Super Bowl memories

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With Super Bowl LIII just a few days away, buffalobills.com caught up with Bills Legends Jim Kelly, Steve Tasker and Thurman Thomas to talk Super Bowl memories, playing on the national stage, predictions for this year’s Patriots-Rams showdown and more.

Topic 1: Favorite Super Bowl memories

Kelly: Definitely going to four Super Bowls in a row. And Whitney Houston singing the national anthem. 

Tasker: There’s a couple of them on both ends of the spectrum. One was the national anthem for Super Bowl XXV. That was pretty awesome. The second one was…I don’t know when it was but there was an article that came out about Thurman that said he was the best all-around running back in the NFL. I remember thinking it was so funny because Thurman was mad because they qualified it – not the best running back, the best all-around running back…he’s not the best at anything. Thurman boycotted the media day that day…That was pretty funny and to this day I laugh about that.

Thomas: I think really for me, the special moment and it wasn’t necessarily just me, but the moment that I think is so special, is that at the first Super Bowl, Super Bowl XXV, when Whitney Houston sang the national anthem. I mean that was a great memory…that was when [Operation] Desert Storm was going on over in Iraq and we had the flyover and the security…That was a really good memory from my perspective of it.”

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Topic 2: Clinching the first Super Bowl appearance & being on the national stage

Kelly: [I was] overwhelmed with emotion. Not many people can say what they dreamed of as a kid would actually come true. Running on the field that day was MY moment and I will never forget it.   

Tasker: When Jim and I came out of the tunnel, you could tell…When we came out [of the tunnel], especially for Super Bowl XXV, it was the first time anybody used one of those blow up tunnels. We walked out and we kind of popped out of there, so it was like boom! And I told Jim this, I said, ‘Jim if I was deaf and blind, I’d still feel the eyeballs on us.’ It was like every person on the planet was looking at you. You could feel it. That was the only time I’ve been aware that people were looking right at me…

Thomas: I think it was more exciting than anything. You know, it was the first Super Bowl that the Buffalo Bills had ever been to and as a kid, you know you sit down and if you go that route to be a professional football player, you always think about…playing on Monday Night Football and playing in the Super Bowl. So, I think when all of the guys got there, they were like ‘You know what, we’re here.’ This is actually the biggest game of the year, and we’re sitting here and we’re in it in Tampa playing the Giants. And I think as players, you sit there and try and enjoy every moment but once the game starts, you have to refocus on what you have to do to try and win as a football team.

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Topic 3: Playing in four straight Super Bowls with friends

Kelly: There are no words to describe what it means. We were a team on and off the field. These guys mean a great deal to me and who knew that all the adversity and perseverance we encountered going to four Super Bowls in a row, would later in life help me prepare for the biggest battle I would face. My teammates and best friends have been with me every step of the way. I love those guys.

Tasker: It’s awesome because even when Thurman’s jersey got retired this year, I saw 10 guys that I hadn’t seen in over 20 years and it was like no time had passed. It was just so good to see them.

Thomas: It made it more special, especially all the guys that played in all four Super Bowls and [it] continues to this day. We’re probably closer now than we were back then but I think over those four years of playing in those four Super Bowls, and losing four, we became closer as a family. Now, along the lines of that, things happened – Hunter being born with Jim, his passing away, that made us closer. Then Jim with his cancer, that made us become even closer. So, I think over time when you look at all the guys that played in all four Super Bowls, we became tighter as a group and became more like family than anything. They really became my brothers and that’s a relationship that I value very, very much to this day.

Topic 4: Superstitions

Tasker: Jim was the most superstitious guy you’ll ever come across. He’d start stuff on Friday through the Sunday of the game, and it was different guys Frank {Reich}, Adam Lingner, the long snapper. My thing was, he wanted to get out a couple minutes before the receivers and running backs came out. He wanted to be out there first so he could get a little warmed up so he could start throwing to them right away when they got out. He didn’t want to walk out by himself so…I was the appointed minion. So, Jim and I would walk out together. Before we’d leave the locker room, we would always say the same thing. He would say, ‘Special teams, be special!’ and I’d say, ‘Hey Jim, just keep slingin’ it.’ I remember I started that when he threw three first quarter interceptions against the Cincinnati Bengals here on Monday Night and they threw five touchdowns and won the game. I said just keep throwing it, so that’s what we’d say and walk out.

Yes, it changed [during the Super Bowl]. When you walk out of the tunnel it’s empty. It’s the tunnel down here, there’s nobody in there, right? Well, the Super Bowl in Tampa, the halftime show was like kids dressed in rainbows and butterflies [and] they were all in the tunnel. And so, when I go ‘Just keep slingin’ it’ and he said, ‘Special teams, [be special]’ and we bumped fists and said, ‘Let’s go,’ we opened the door and there was a felt aisle that we were in. Well it’s not empty, it’s full of kids! We step out and I’m walking with the Pope right…everybody knows him…So, we’re walking out…and we walked onto the field and it was unbelievable. I remember that. That was unbelievable because those kids were beside themselves. They were all yelling at him, ‘Jim! Jim!’

Thomas: No, we pretty much kept our same routine. You know, one of the routines and superstitions that we had when Jim got there, is he used to throw up in the restroom before every game. And if we knew that Jim threw up, which I think he did in Super Bowl XXV, we were ready. And sometimes when he didn’t, we would [think], ‘Oh, it might be a rough day for us.’ But yeah, we all had our little superstitions. I had to be the third when we went out before the kickoff, I had to be the third from last out of the locker room…and I think guys did things on the side for themselves.

In celebration of Super Bowl LIII week, we take a look back at each of the Buffalo Bills' Super Bowl appearances.

Topic 5: How the game has changed

Tasker: Over the course of our four Super Bowls, the game changed vastly around it. It got bigger and bigger. The pregame and the week before and the attention and the media coverage and the responsibilities of the teams – with picture day that they have…it got bigger and bigger. So, it really changed, and it changes every year because the venue changes, the facilities change, the hotels and the media responsibilities and how it works changes. So, it’s hard to get a feel for what it’s going to be like in this city. The thing that holds water always is you feel like you’re never going to get to the game.

They keep moving the game. You have this mental clock where during the season [you have a] routine – game, game, game…When you get to the Super Bowl, by Thursday afternoon that normal amount of energy that you’ve expended before the game to get to the game, is done and you’ve got Friday, Saturday and all day Sunday to get through. And it feels like the game should’ve already happened and that’s hard. That’s really hard for all that routine that you go through to get there and have it all thrown out the window that game seems like it’s never going to kick off. It takes forever.

Thomas: I mean it’s changed…I think with so much more social media, that a lot more people are involved with the biggest game of the year than they were 20-something years ago. When you have all these camera angles, they’re throwing the ball 40 [or] 50 times a game, and you now have some of the best quarterbacks that have really ever played, [it changes things]. Brady has been there, Manning has been there, so I think the dynamics have changed a little bit. Knowing that you have so much more social media to actually cover this game, across the world, [also makes a difference].

Topic 6 (for Tasker): Covering the Super Bowl

Tasker: It was Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans and the lights went out. As a response to that, and when we got Super 50 in California, CBS had that Super Bowl as well and they decided that if something happens like that again, like an earthquake or the lights go out and something comes unplugged, if we lose the broadcast again for whatever reason, they put me and Adam Zucker in a studio in New York standing by…So, this year, I’ll be on set. I’ll go to New York and be in the studio in New York with Adam Zucker. We’ll have highlights of the game, we’ll be getting storylines and all that waiting for something to happen.

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Topic 7 (for Thomas): Playing against your good friend Emmitt Smith

You know what, I had good friends on the Giants, I had good friends on the Redskins, but you know to actually have a good friend that was playing the same position that I played, was really special because I wanted to see him play. I think when you go against a caliber guy like Emmitt Smith, you want to see what he does. If he gains 100 yards, I would try and gain 101 yards. That was kind of like, that’s my guy over there – we’re really good friends, he’s one of the top running backs in the National Football League at that time, and I wanted to outdo him. Yeah, I think the picture that you’re talking about, when we hugged, I was with his niece on the field because I had known Emmitt for a number of years by then and he told his niece, ‘This is the best running back in the NFL’, and I think at that point he kind of knew that we had just lost our fourth Super Bowl and no one was really feeling good, so for him to say that to his niece it kind of pepped me up…It was quite a compliment.

Topic 8: Super Bowl LIII predictions

Kelly: I won’t make a pick, but I would never bet against Tom Brady.

Tasker: I think it’ll be the Patriots over the Rams.

Thomas: It’s tough for me to decide, but I am predicting that the Los Angeles Rams will win. I’m going to go with the Rams.

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