ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — Bruce Smith joined some elite company in Buffalo.
The NFL’s career sacks leader and Hall of Famer had his No. 78 retired during a halftime ceremony at Buffalo’s game against the New York Jets on Thursday night.
Smith, who went to Booker T. Washington High School and lives in Virginia Beach, was joined at midfield during a halftime ceremony by his family as his name and number were unveiled on the wall above the east end zone. The field was adorned with a circular banner with Smith’s name and number and a separate banner with a picture of Smith during his playing days in Buffalo.
“It feels so good to be home,” Smith told a sold-out New Era Field. “There are no words that I can utter here tonight that will adequately convey just how overjoyed, overwhelmed, and honored I am to have my jersey retired from this storied Buffalo Bills organization.”
Smith played 19 seasons in the NFL, 15 of those with the Bills and is the NFL’s all-time sack leader with 200 and had 171 with Buffalo.
“He’s obviously right there with the premier pass-rushers in the history of the game so, man, maybe we can convince him to come rush the passer on third down,” Bills coach Rex Ryan said Tuesday. “He still looks like he can by the way.”
Smith helped lead the Bills to four consecutive AFC championships from 1990-1993 and was a two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1990 and 1996. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2009.
“I must express my appreciation to my amazing coach, teammates, and the incredible chemistry and synergy that we shared with this formula,” Smith said. “I am fortunate to be a part of something so special and dynamic.”
Smith is the second player in Bills history to have their number retired by the team. Quarterback Jim Kelly’s No. 12 was retired in 2001.
“I feel honored and privileged to have played with this group of guys in that era of football,” Smith told reporters before Thursday’s game. “I just feel honored and privileged to have had the opportunity to play in front of this crowd and these fans for 15 years. I love Buffalo; it has a special place in my heart. I have so many friends here, I have so many people who were there with me when my parents passed away; in good times and in bad times and I’ll never, ever, never forget. Never forget. This is a special place.”