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Bruce Smith named to Bills Wall of Fame

He came. He saw. He sacked.

For 15 years, Bruce Smith menaced opposing quarterbacks with a quick and powerful pass rushing style that took him to the top of the NFL sack list and left his name etched into the minds of opponents.

Sunday, the Bills ensured that name would forever be a part of Buffalo Bills history, honoring Smith with a spot on the Bills' Wall of Fame, the 25th player to be honored as such and the fourth from the Bills' four AFC Championship teams of the early 1990s.

It is fitting that Smith's name now boldly stands to the left of the 12th Man on the Wall, right next to the spot reserved for the wildly passionate legions of Bills fans that Smith so often inspired and encouraged.

"I am humbled and blessed by this honor," Smith said. "You guys have been my life for 15 years… I am overwhelmed with joy right now. You cannot believe how excited and enthused I am to see you all here."

Smith said his success came not only from Bills fans, who he previously called the best in the NFL, but also his teammates. He mentioned Bills Hall of Famers Jim Kelly, Thurman Thomas and former coach Merv Levy as essential to his success, as well as former Bills linebacker Darryl Talley, whom he called the most unselfish and unsung player he played with.

The bulk of Smith's 171 career sacks as a Bill came during the team's run of four straight conference championships, a streak Smith said was set up by Bills owner Ralph Wilson's commitment to acquire talented players after Smith was drafted first overall by the Bills in 1985.

"Everything seemed to come together at the right time," Smith said.

Smith said he received a wakeup call after his rookie season when he weighed in at over 300 pounds. He said former Bills strength and conditioning coordinator Rusty Jones educated him on the benefits of proper nutrition and training. Smith became well known for his commitment to keeping a tremendously low body fat percentage.

The league's all-time sack leader excelled in the Bills' 3-4 defensive scheme, often pressuring the opposing quarterback despite attracting numerous double teams. Smith credited former defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell with instilling in him a commitment to becoming a "student of the game", something he said helped him excel at the NFL level for 19 seasons.

"When he brought that aspect or component to my game, I was hooked," Smith said. "I was addicted. I would be the first one in to study film, often times the last one to leave. I would stay in shape year round. I was consumed with leaving everything out on the field. I didn't know when my career would end, so I wanted to play every week, every down, like it was my last."

And play he did. Smith recorded an NFL record 200 sacks, 171 of them as a member of the Bills. Named to the Pro Bowl 11 times, Smith also holds the record (with Andre Reed) for most games played in a Buffalo Bills uniform.

When asked about his allegiance to the team, Smith smiled wide with a twinkle in his eye.

He said, "In my heart and in my blood, it's red, white and blue."

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