When the news that Andre Reed had been elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame broke on Saturday night, a Buffalo Bills great two weeks shy of his 81st birthday sat back in his home near Columbus, Ohio, with a special sense of satisfaction.
Elbert Dubenion — aka “Duby” and “Golden Wheels” — was the greatest receiver of the Bills’ first 25 years. It’s a neat twist of fate in Bills history that Dubenion was the man who first scouted Reed for the team.
Dubenion was a scout for the Bills for the better part of 20 years after his career ended in 1968. He visited Kutztown University in 1984 to watch Reed.
“It’s very satisfying to see him get in the Hall of Fame, only he should have been in a year or two earlier,” Dubenion said Tuesday from his home in Westerville, Ohio. “I think it was well deserved. He was a great player, great kid. He was everything you wanted in a player.”
The Bills drafted Reed in the fourth round in 1985, two rounds after they had taken wide receiver Chris Burkett, out of Jackson State University. Burkett went 42nd overall. Reed went 85th, with the second pick in the fourth round.
Burkett spent five years with the Bills and nine overall in the NFL, catching 292 passes. Reed caught 951 over 16 seasons.
Dubenion had a strong feeling about Reed on draft day and let Bills owner Ralph C. Wilson Jr. know it.
“I told Mr. Wilson at the time when we took Andre in the fourth round that I thought he was better than Chris Burkett. It was good to be right,” Dubenion laughed.
“He was a quarterback first at Kutztown, then he switched to wide receiver,” Dubenion said. “He didn’t have great quarterbacking. But he didn’t drop many in college, and he caught a lot of balls in traffic. I remember his advisor at Kutztown was a guy who had played quarterback at Bowling Green, and he talked about what a great kid Andre was on and off the field.”
Kutztown is a Division II school with about 9,000 students. Dubenion still is the only player to be drafted from tiny Bluffton University, located in Northwestern Ohio.
Dubenion caught 296 passes for 5,309 yards and 35 touchdowns for the Bills from 1960 to ’67. All of those were team records until Reed broke them.
Dubenion said his small-college roots helped him as a scout.
“I think I may have looked a little bit harder at kids from small colleges to make sure they got a chance to show what they could do,” he said.
Dubenion said Reed’s work ethic made him great.
“He just got better each year, I thought,” he said. “He didn’t hit his stride and stop. He kept on going, kept on pushing himself, which was great to see. I think he was one of the toughest receivers going over the middle that I’ve ever seen both in college and the pros.”
Dubenion stared scouting for the Bills in 1968, right after his playing career ended. He spent two years scouting for Miami in the early ’80s, then returned to the Bills. He joined Atlanta’s scouting staff and had a long career with the Falcons before retiring.
Dubenion turns 81 on Feb. 16. He is battling health problems.
“I have Parkinson’s disease, and I have a bad case of arthritis,” he said. “I’ve been hurting the last few years.”