Reed, Smith, Wilson make list of HOF finalists

Bills fans will have their fingers crossed for more than one Pro Football Hall of Fame finalist later this month as all-time leading receiver Andre Reed, all-time sack leader Bruce Smith and team founder and owner Ralph Wilson are all among the 15 modern era finalists for possible enshrinement in 2009.

Almost five years after establishing himself as the league's all-time sack leader Bills Wall of Famer Bruce Smith is one step closer to becoming a first ballot Hall of Famer. Joining him as first-year eligibles are John Randle, Shannon Sharpe and Rod Woodson.

But Smith is also joined by former teammate Andre Reed. This is the third straight year that Reed has made it to the final 15.

Joining the two Wall of Fame players is Bills owner Ralph Wilson. He was one of just three contributors on the semifinalist list this year with former Browns and Ravens owner Art Modell and former commissioner Paul Tagliabue. Tagliabue also made the list of 15 finalists.

Steve Tasker was the only member of the Bills family on the semifinalist list that did not make the cut to 15.

Smith, an 11-time Pro Bowl defensive end is considered a virtual lock for enshrinement this August. Smith admits he thinks about the Pro Football Hall of Fame from time to time.

"It's something that crosses my mind periodically," said Smith. "Especially when I get together with guys that are already in the Hall of Fame."

Those guys are usually Thurman Thomas and Jim Kelly, two former teammates that are anticipating Smith's enshrinement this August.

"He was the most dominant defensive end that I've ever seen," said Kelly. "I just thank God that Bruce was on my team and not on anybody else's team. He worked hard and it's just good to see it coming around."

Making first team All-Pro eight times in his 19-year career, including 13 double-digit sack seasons, Smith was as dominant and consistent as they come and was obviously a vital cog in Buffalo's four consecutive AFC Championships.

"He was just so overpowering," said 12-year teammate Darryl Talley of Smith. "Him being able to disrupt blocking schemes, running schemes, the whole thing. That was the idea, just causing chaos."

Reed meanwhile has been down this road before having been a finalist each of the past two years only to be beaten out by fellow receivers Michael Irvin and Art Monk who went on to be enshrined in 2007 and 2008.

It will be no different this year as Cris Carter will be Reed's main competition, and with superior career numbers there's a chance that Carter could leapfrog Reed for enshrinement.

Reed stands tied for sixth in NFL history in receptions and 10th all-time in receiving yards. He's also 10th all-time in touchdown receptions. As for postseason career marks Reed is in the top five all-time for career receiving yards (4th), receptions (3rd), touchdown receptions (5th) and 100-yard receiving games (3rd).

"If you put Lynn Swann and John Stallworth's numbers together Andre beats them both combined," said Kelly of the Steelers' two Hall of Fame wideouts. "That's enough to tell you how deserving Andre is, because if those two receivers were deserving, and I believe they were, then number 83 deserves to be in the Hall of Fame."

The list of 15 modern era finalists was done by mail ballot. Candidates must receive at least 80 percent of the vote to make the cut.

The Class of 2009 will be determined at the Hall of Fame Selection Committee's annual meeting on Saturday, Jan. 31, 2009, in Tampa, Florida the day before Super Bowl XLIII. The election results are announced immediately following the meeting at a press conference at the Super Bowl media headquarters.

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