Bruce Smith said it best moments after he and Bills owner Ralph Wilson were two of the six finalists selected as members of the 2009 Pro Football Hall of Fame enshrinement class the day before the Super Bowl in Tampa.
"To have Ralph Wilson, the founding owner of the Buffalo Bills to be inducted in the '09 class as well… this is truly special," said Smith.
Canton, Ohio will definitely have a Buffalo flavor on Aug. 8 as the Bills' all-time sack leader and the only owner the Buffalo Bills have ever known will make up one-third of the 2009 induction class.
The two new enshrinees were joined by Bob Hayes, Randall McDaniel, Derrick Thomas and Rod Woodson.
Both Smith and Wilson were in attendance for the announcement in Tampa and were overwhelmed.
"I want to thank the voters for making this a reality," said Smith, who was initially overcome by emotion when speaking of his late father. "There is certainly a great deal of dedication and sacrifice and labor and commitment to the game that was poured into this bestowed honor. You have added the exclamation point so I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart."
Smith was a virtual shoo-in as the league's all-time sack leader, 11-time Pro Bowl end and two-time Defensive Player of the Year. The candidacy of Bills owner Ralph Wilson was a little less certain, but Wilson's contributions to the game could not be ignored and he was voted in. The unassuming Wilson however, was clearly surprised.
"I'm going to take a couple of minutes for me to get over the shock," said Wilson. "A pleasant shock. It's such a tremendous honor."
"He's a great man and has contributed an awful lot," said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. "With this being the 50th anniversary of the AFL, we all know the tremendous things that he's contributed to the game."
Smith was quick to thank those that made their respective careers possible. In addition to thanking his late father and his mother, Smith also acknowledged his wife Carmen and son Alston as well as his high school coaches. Of course he thanked his former Bills family as well.
"I would be remiss if I did not talk about the individuals that made this possible," said Smith. "Marv Levy, who was an incredible inspiration to me. What a coach, what a mentor, what a leader."
The Bills Hall of Fame coach was in attendance for the announcement. Smith also thanked former Bills linebacker Darryl Talley, as well as Hall of Famers Jim Kelly and Thurman Thomas.
Wilson, still recovering from being named to the Hall of Fame class, poignantly reflected on his 50 years in pro football.
"I have to say I have made so many friends in football over the past half century," Wilson said. "Coaches, players, fans, sportswriters… you know it's just been part of my life. To get this great honor, I don't know what to say. I must say that I have seen over the years either on television or in person all of the enshrinees that have preceded me. This year, last year and way, way back. To be in the same Hall of Fame with them is a tremendous, tremendous honor. I never expected it. I came into the game because I liked the game and I wanted to be an owner of a team. We picked Buffalo and the people there, the fans have been great."
Smith and Wilson are the eighth and ninth members of the Bills family to be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, joining RB O.J. Simpson (1985), G Billy Shaw (1999), QB Jim Kelly (2001), Coach Marv Levy (2001), G Joe DeLamielleure (2003), WR James Lofton (2003) and RB Thurman Thomas (2007).
Smith is the first Bills defensive player to be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
The Hall of Fame enshrinement ceremonies are scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 8 at 7pm. Smith said he's down to two candidates to present him for induction at the ceremony. It will be either Marv Levy or former Bills defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell. Wilson said he had not taken the time to consider a presenter. But one thing was clear, both Smith and Wilson were moved by the honor bestowed on both of them Saturday.
"To be included with Bruce Smith who won so many games for us… to be sitting up here with him is a great, great privilege," Wilson said.
"I'm just so blessed right now," said Smith. "This is very special to me."
Reed doesn't make the cut
The third Bills finalist, Andre Reed, unfortunately was eliminated in the cut from 15 to 10 finalists in the first round of voting Saturday. It's the third straight year in which the Bills all-time leading receiver has been a finalist, but it was also the third straight time he could not make it to the second round of finalist voting.
"I'm sorry that one of my teammates Andre Reed did not go in," said Smith. "Certainly he has had a Hall of Fame career. This is a special wide receiver and hopefully one day the voters will see it in their eyes to make that possible."