Reed, the Buffalo Bills’ all-time greatest receiver, was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on his eighth try as a finalist.
He becomes the 10th member of the Bills inducted into the Hall’s shrine in Canton, Ohio, and the fifth player from the Bills’ Super Bowl era to be so honored.
“The Hall of Fame is such a prestigious institution,” Reed said. “Yes I’ve waited, but my dad always told me patience is a virtue and good things come to those who wait. I was also part of some great teams, with great players.”
Joining Reed as modern-era inductees in the Hall’s Class of 2014 were linebacker Derrick Brooks, tackle Walter Jones, defensive end Michael Strahan and defensive back Aeneas Williams. They made it to the top of a field of 15 in voting conducted during a nine-hour meeting by a group of 46 media members from across the country. Also inducted were punter Ray Guy and defensive end Claude Humphrey. They were picked from a pool of senior candidates, players whose careers ended more than 25 years ago.
There now are 287 men in the Hall of Fame. Only six inductees were finalists more than eight times. The reason Reed had to wait so long was there has been a logjam of great receivers among the final 15 in recent years, and numerous other Bills got in ahead of him during his wait. They included owner Ralph C. Wilson Jr., Bruce Smith and Thurman Thomas.
Reed talked about the special bond the Bills’ Super Bowl-era players feel toward each other.
“From Day One I looked at my teammates and my coaches as family,” he said. “From Day One that’s the way I approached it. Every time I went on the field, I felt that those guys were my family and I was going to do the best I can to help us win. Looking out into the audience and seeing Jim Kelly and Bruce and Thurman and Coach Marv Levy, man the emotions right now are overwhelming because I think of all those guys and how much they wanted this for me. I felt a part of them. Regardless of what we did on the field, we were always family and that’s the way we’ll always be.”
Reed, who turned 50 on Wednesday, starred for the Bills from 1985 through 1999. He caught 951 passes for 13,198 yards and 87 touchdowns. When he ended his career, he ranked third in NFL history in catches and sixth in receiving yards. He now ranks 11th in catches and 13th in receiving yards.
Reed also was sensational at big moments for the Bills. In 21 postseason games, Reed caught 85 passes for 1,229 yards with nine touchdowns. Each of the Bills’ first three Super Bowl seasons, 1990, ’91 and ’92, he had huge performances to help Buffalo get to the NFL title game.
His signature performance came in January 1993 when the Bills rallied from a 35-3 deficit to defeat the Houston Oilers, 41-38, in overtime in a first-round playoff game. It ranks as the greatest comeback in NFL history. Reed caught eight passes for 136 yards and three touchdowns.
Reed beat out two other outstanding receivers, Marvin Harrison and Tim Brown, among this year’s finalists. Harrison, who starred for Indianapolis, caught 1,102 passes for 14,580 yards. Brown, who starred for the Oakland Raiders, caught 1,094 passes for 14,934 yards.
However, voters apparently accepted the fact that Reed had been waiting longer than the others, that he played in an offense that passed the ball less than most teams and that his virtues – toughness, unselfishness and clutch performances – had to be recognized. Buffalo averaged 479 passes a year during Reed’s prime. The NFL’s top offense this year, Denver, attempted 675 passes.
“I had a couple tears in my eyes when he walked on stage,” said Bills great Bruce Smith. “It’s a special moment he’ll remember for the rest of his life, and it’s a relief. The history of this team is not complete without the story being told, and that’s what you want. Now the whole story is being told with Andre going in. We still have one more we’re working on, Steve Tasker.”
“I think you’ve got to understand it’s about time,” said Kelly. “I’m so excited. It’s long awaited. Anybody who ever played against Andre knew he deserved it. And there’s so many guys well deserving.”
“I had to dry tears from Fran,” said Levy, referring to his wife. “It’s so well deserved. He’s a great team guy and a fine person. I’m thrilled. I’m as happy as I was the day I got elected.”
Reed also expressed his gratitude to the Buffalo fans. “Buffalo is a small market, but that city was one of the best cities to play for in the NFL,” he said.
“It didn’t matter what the weather was – it was cold, and we used that as our advantage. To see Bruce and Thurman and the guys that I went to war with every single Sunday, these guys are immortalized in the Hall of Fame. To be there with them, next to my kids being born, there’s nothing better than that.”
The other members of the Bills’ organization in the Hall are: Wilson, Kelly, Thomas, Smith, Levy, running back O.J. Simpson, receiver James Lofton and guards Billy Shaw and Joe DeLamielleure.