Fans remember career of Bills’ great Andre Reed

Beginning at 7 p.m. tonight, the wait will finally be over for Andre Reed.

Reed, who was in his ninth year of eligibility for the Hall of Fame, eight of which as a finalist, finally made the cut and will be inducted tonight as a member of the 2014 class for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

“This is bigger than me,” Reed told the Associated Press. “We all know what’s going on with the team and all that stuff. This is like a breath of fresh air. I’m glad I’m at the forefront of this, because there’s something to be happy about.”

When Reed retired after the 2000 season, he ranked third on the all-time NFL list with 951 catches, fourth with 13,198 receiving yards and sixth with 87 touchdown receptions.

Reed finished his career as arguably the best receiver in Bills history and was a major piece of a franchise that won four consecutive AFC championships from 1990-93.

He was also a fan favorite during his time in Buffalo.

Reed was highly regarded by fans for his toughness, preparation and his approachability off the field.

“I remember being a kid at training camp around 1994 and I was standing on the tennis courts (at Fredonia State),” said former western New York resident Derek Banner.

“The receivers were doing drills and he talked to the fans while he was working out just like it was friends talking.”

“He was a damn good football player and a down-to-earth, friendly guy,” said Cheektowaga’s Elizabeth Garneret. “I wouldn’t miss the induction of Andre Reed for anything. I have been a fan since I was 10 years old and he was my favorite player; go No. 83!”

Considering his career statistics, combined with the success of the Bills during his tenure, it is hard for many fans to comprehend why it took so long for Reed to finally get a spot in the Hall.

“Anybody who questions whether or not Andre Reed deserves to be in the Hall of Fame simply needs to look up his highlight videos on YouTube,” said Silver Creek resident Michael Jackson. “He was tough as nails and fast as lightning. It didn’t matter where he caught the ball; he had the ability to turn every catch into a big play.

“I’ll also remember his spirit for the game,” Jackson added. “He always gave his full effort and played hard from start to finish. He never gave up. A prime example was the greatest comeback in NFL history versus the Oilers. What a key role he played in that game.”

With many Reed fans expected to make the trip to Canton, Ohio, one fan in particular has been making headlines. Jim Kelly, one of Reed’s staunches supporters during his time on the ballot, will be in attendance during the induction ceremony.

Reed and Kelly shared a unique chemistry during their playing days together and have remained close off the field, especially during Kelly’s recent battle with cancer.

“The connection between him and Jim Kelly was perfection,” said former Farnham resident Holly Hogan. “My family and I were at most of the games during the greatest Bills era and he made very few mistakes. He was game-ready every single week. He deserves to be in the Hall of Fame and I was lucky enough to be there in person to watch him and his Hall of Fame teammates. He was fantastic and was one of the absolute best at his position. Watching him play was pure pleasure.”

The Buffalo Bills are a family affair for many western New York residents and the players of the early-’90s Bills are no different. The friendships they developed during their playing days are still strong and tonight they will have yet another reason to celebrate as a family.

“First of all, the friendships on and off the field,” former Bills General Manager Bill Polian said of what he’ll remember most about his time with the Bills. “It’s well known in this area that the team is still close. We’re still as close as we were when we were together. And when we get together for things like this or Jim (Kelly’s) golf tournament, or as we will in Canton (Ohio), which will be a big family reunion We rejoice when things happen good for people like Andre (Reed) and others who have gotten into the Hall of Fame, and we grieve with one another when something like Kent (Hull’s) untimely death takes place.”

Bills fans also celebrate and grieve with the team as a family, but come 7 p.m. tonight it will be all smiles when Reed finally receives what many Bills fans believe he deserved all along.