Ron Wolfley listened to his big brother, Craig, about everything and sought his sage wisdom on the eve of his first training camp with the NFL St. Louis Cardinals in 1985.
The nerves of being a rookie got to Ron and for the first time he was petrified of failing, so he picked up the phone and called Craig.
“You got any advice for me?” he asked.
Craig paused for several seconds and said, “Yeah Ronnie: Shut your mouth, respect everybody and pick a fight with the toughest guy on the team.”
That’s exactly what he did and 27 years later they shared a special moment Wednesday night. The Wolfley brothers, along with 12 others, are a part of the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame’s Class of 2012, an event held at the Buffalo Hyatt Regency.
The class also includes Sabres play-by-play man Rick Jeanneret, former Buffalo Bill Harry Jacobs, former St. Bonaventure basketball star George Carter, golfer Kim Kaul, retired wrestling coach Eric Knuutila, tennis pro Todd Miller, Nichols hockey coach Frank Sacheli and St. Joe’s coach and administrator Joe Wolf.
Legends honored posthumously were University at Buffalo softball coach and administrator Nan Harvey; major league shortstop Stan Rojek; catcher Wally Schang, a native of South Wales who had a 19-year big league career, and boxer Lou Scozza, a top light-heavyweight from 1925-34.
Craig Wolfley starred at Orchard Park High from 1972-75 and was recruited to play offensive line at Syracuse from 1976-79. Drafted in the fifth round by the Steelers in 1980, he was an offensive lineman from 1980-89, starting 102 of 129 regular season games, and ended his 12-year NFL career after playing two seasons with the Minnesota Vikings in 1990-91.
Ron Wolfley was a three-sport star at Orchard Park before transferring to Frontier and eventually landing a scholarship to West Virginia, where he played tailback and special teams.
All of Ron’s accolades meant little the night before training camp when he was a bundle of nerves. Craig had been right about everything else, so Ron thought it was time for a chat with big bro.
“It was the best advice he could have possibly given me,” Ron said. “It should be on a plaque somewhere.”
Ron picked a fight with strong safety Leonard Smith, who was an All-Pro selection in 1986 and who later spent three seasons with the Bills. Smith was as good a target as any.
“I didn’t call him out per se but you always get the opportunities in training camp because you’re hitting people and they’re hitting you,” Ron said. “You’re going to get the opportunity to throw down if in fact you want to at some point in time. Leonard was so tough and such a great football player and I have so much respect for him and he played hard.”
Smith took a few runs at the rook and Ron figured it was time to carry out Craig’s plan. “I shot my hands up into his face and he didn’t like it and it was on like Donkey Kong, as they say,” Ron said. “It was real easy. It was a good one, too.”
Ron figures the fisticuffs earned him an amount of respect and set the table for a long career as a nasty special teams performer. Four consecutive Pro Bowl appearances from 1986-89 are proof of his value. Craig, however, doesn’t want to take credit.
“I think his memory is faulty based on the fact that he’s had double digit concussions,” Craig said, laughing. “I don’t remember myself being that good at giving advice but certainly I knew what a great player he was. He had a great heart and work ethic. He really enjoyed the ballistic aspect of playing in the professional football league.”