The main job of a free safety in football is to anticipate and read where plays are headed before they unfold to put yourself in position to not only make a play, but often times to assist or help a teammate. In most cases George Saimes was there to help his cornerbacks Booker Edgerson or Butch Byrd. But by most accounts his sure tackling made him a wide-ranging asset to Buffalo's championship defenses.
"He solidified the secondary and helped out our linebacker corps because he was such a great tackler that he would come up and make a lot of plays before they got beyond the linebacker level so he really helped out in both areas," Edgerson said. "But he'd knock the ball down when those receivers were running those post patterns and corner patterns."
As Edgerson and his fellow defensive teammates remember it, Saimes was always there.
Considered one of the final pieces that made Buffalo's defense championship caliber in the mid-1960's Saimes was as reliable a safety as there was in the league at that time. Back in the days when man-to-man defense was the call on almost every play knowing Saimes was always going to be in the right place behind you was comforting to Buffalo's corners.
"George always had a great anticipation as to where the ball was going to be and he always played to that particular area," Edgerson said. "So he made my job and Butch Byrd's a lot easier, especially when we were playing against top notch receivers. He was always there."
Saimes, who lost a lengthy battle with leukemia at age 71 Friday, was a dedicated teammate. Named to the Bills Wall of Fame in 2000 and named to the All-AFL team, Saimes still has the eighth most interceptions in team history with 22.
Always striving to be a better player and teammate, Saimes would try anything that gave him an edge on the field.
"He'd do anything if he thought it made him and his teammates play better," said Edgerson. "He was kind of a quirky individual. He would take plastic grocery bags and put them on his feet and use them as insulation convinced they would keep the cold out. He thought sunflower seeds were the greatest thing since peanut butter. He was convinced they cleared your mind and made you play better. He took his game and everything very serious."
Edgerson just never realized how serious Saimes took his bond as a teammate until he was chosen to be the next inductee for the Bills Wall of Fame in 2010. After being selected to be the 26th member, and the first from the AFL days since Saimes 10 years prior, he got a call from his former safety concerning the date of his ceremony.
Sunday, October 3rd at halftime of the Bills-Raiders game at Ralph Wilson Stadium was when Edgerson would be formally honored. That unfortunately was a problem for his former teammate.
Saimes' niece was getting married the same day in his hometown of Canton, Ohio.
"He called me and said I want to be there however, my niece is getting married the same day, but I'll figure out a way to get there," recalled Edgerson. "I said, 'George don't worry about me. I know you want me to have this award, but you don't have to be there. Knowing you're in my corner is enough.' Would you leave your niece's wedding to come to Buffalo to see a guy that you hadn't seen in 15 years to get an award?"
Saimes didn't speak to Edgerson again prior to the cornerback's big day, but on October 3rd, 2010 Saimes found a way to be in the right place at the right time for both his niece and his cornerback.
"Lo and behold he showed up," said Edgerson. "He was there when I was going on the Wall of Fame. It speaks volumes to his character and how he felt about his ex-teammates. So he wasn't just a great ball player, he was a great friend."
For his cornerback the reliable Saimes, for one last time, was there.