Throwback Tuesday: Uniform Numbers
By Budd Bailey
(Note: Back in 2018, I decided to come up with a list of the top uniform numbers in all of Buffalo sports, 0-99. It was fun to do, and created some discussion. When we switched servers, the story was lost to posterity. I thought I'd bring it back. Note - it's fair to say Josh Allen has claimed 17 for a long time to come. )
Uniform numbers aren’t merely a way of identifying players in sports. They can be a game.
Admit it, Buffalo Sports Fan. You hear about the number 12 on a shirt, and you can still picture Jim Kelly. Same goes for Bruce Smith and 78. Gil Perreault and 11. (In the case of Bandits’ fans, John Tavares and 11.)
From there, you can start making up lists. Who is the greatest Sabre or Bill to ever wear a particular number? From there, it’s an easy jump to an All-Western New York team of numbers.
That’s what we tried to do this summer for Buffalo Sports Page. We went from 99 to 0, one day at a time.
Some were easy, some were tough. If you play this game yourself, you’ll find out something about the way you rate players. For example, do you value longevity or brilliance? That’s a question that comes up for No. 89, when discussing the merits of Steve Tasker vs. Alexander Mogilny. A similar argument comes up at No. 25, when Luke Easter’s stay in Buffalo is compared to Dave Andreychuk’s. If you think coaching a local team helps an individual’s case, then you probably believe Lindy Ruff deserves to be No. 22.
I believe that top college athletes deserve a nod when possible, so they are listed. Some players just don’t fit because they wore two different numbers during their career (Brad May, I’m thinking of you.) And I’m willing to give extra credit to some obscure Buffalo numbers, like my pick for No. 19. I tried to mention someone from almost every relatively major team that’s called Western New York home.
I did something like this more than 20 years ago, and the reactions were fun to read. One guy from Arizona wrote to yell at me for not including more athletes who were well-known before 1960. He didn’t give his age. But yes, the more recent players are more likely to be picked. Others apparently liked to play along this time around, based on some of the reason. I found that the list got much stronger, as some of the weaker numbers have been filled in during that time.
By the way, the last addition to the "others" list was Roy Hobbs of the New York Knights.
0 – Tony Meola, Blizzard. He was the goalie on three U.S. World Cup teams, and signed with the Blizzard during the 1994-95 season. However, Tony left the team after two months to star in an off-Broadway play. “Tony and Tina’s Wedding.” He can be heard on satellite radio as a soccer commentator now.
00 – Martin Biron, Sabres. The then-rookie wore Double-0 in 1995-96. Soon after that, the NHL’s computer system wouldn’t allow an entry of 00 into its database. Biron switched to #43 for the rest of his time in Buffalo. Always a good interview, he now talks for a living as a broadcaster.
1 – Roger Crozier, Sabres. We usually associate this number with goalies, and Crozier was the first one the Sabres ever had after acquiring him from Detroit. Injuries cut short his career, but his acrobatics were entertaining while they lasted. Others: Don Edwards, Sabres; Jim May, Stallions; Jhonas Enroth, Sabres; Stephanie Reid, UB; Bobby Olive, Destroyers.
2 – Tim Horton, Sabres. He played less than two years before his death in an auto accident, but his impact on a young team was immense. That’s why his number is hanging at the top of the KeyBank Center. Tim played 24 years in the NHL and is in the Hockey Hall of Fame. Others: Steve Christie, Bills; Dan Carpenter, Bills; Ian Llord, Bandits.
3 – Pete Gogolak, Bills. He only played two seasons with the Bills, but he started two revolutions. Gogolak was the first soccer-style kicker in pro football, and within 20 years everyone was doing it. Then when he jumped to the NFL’s Giants, he sped up the process that led to the merger. Others: Billy Dee Smith, Bandits; Phil Scaffidi, Niagara; Jaylen Adams, St. Bonaventure.
4 – Jerry Korab, Sabres. The rugged defenseman came into his own when he was acquired from Vancouver, and was part of several good teams in the 1970s. Jerry also finished his career in Buffalo, returning here after his trade to Los Angeles. Others: Rhett Warrener, Sabres; John Kidd, Bills; Ernie Buriano, Stallions.
5 – Mike Ramsey, Sabres. The defenseman arrived in Buffalo in 1980 fresh from winning a gold medal for the U.S. Olympic team. He stayed through 1992-93, and might be the best all-around defenseman in franchise history. Others: Tyrod Taylor, Bills; Jason Woolley, Sabres; Jim McMillian, Braves.
6 – Ollie Carnegie, Bisons. He joined the Bisons in 1931 and stayed through 1942 – 1,273 games. Yes, the rules were different then. Ollie remains the International League’s all-time leader in runs batted in, and his Buffalo number is retired. Others: Phil Housley, Sabres; Jim Schoenfeld, Sabres; Chris White, Bandits.
7 – Rick Martin, Sabres. A No. 1 draft choice of the Sabres in 1971, he took no time to become one of the league’s best goal scorers. Martin had two 50-goal seasons in Buffalo. Only a knee injury kept him out of the Hall of Fame. Others: Doug Flutie, Bills; Emily Pfalzer, Beauts; John Tucker, Sabres; Art Clark, local auto racing.
8 – Brian Moorman, Bills. A member of the Bills during the early 2000s once said the team’s best athlete was the punter. Moorman was a track star in college, and a two-time All-Pro for the Bills (2005 & 2006) during a long career. Others: Doug Bodger, Sabres; Jim Lorentz, Sabres; Tony McKegney, Sabres; Marvin Barnes, Braves.
9 – Randy Smith, Braves. He wore No. 32 as a basketball player at Buffalo State, but switched to No. 9 during his time in the NBA here. Smith eventually became an All-Star. Randy was one of the best athletes in a league that was filled with them. Others: Mark Steenhuis, Bandits; Derek Roy, Sabres; Rudy Pikuzinski, Stallions; Roy Hobbs, Knights.
10 – Craig Ramsay, Sabres. He showed up during the 1971-72 season, and stayed through 1985. The left winger was one of the best defensive forwards in the league (winning the Selke Trophy in 1985), and he once played in 776 straight games. Others: Dale Hawerchuk, Sabres; Marta, Flash; Carli Lloyd, Flash; Guy Trottier, (hockey) Bisons; Pat McCready, Bandits.
11 – Gil Perreault, Sabres. The original Sabre was one of the most exciting offensive players of his era. The NHL Hall of Famer stayed through 1986, and he was crucial in making Buffalo a successful hockey franchise. Others: John Tavares, Bandits; Bob McAdoo. Braves, Scott Norwood, Bills; Drew Bledsoe, Bills; Steve Atkinson, Norsemen.
12 – Jim Kelly, Bills. The quarterback might be the most significant player in team history, leading the Bills to four straight Super Bowls during an 11-year career here. In a sense, the team is still trying to replace him. He was a first-year inductee into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Others: Joe Ferguson, Bills; Charlie Cordas, Stallions; Christine Sinclair, Flash.
13 – Ken Murray Jr., St. Bonaventure. There are good reasons why his number is hanging above the Reilly Center court. Murray was the first 1,000-point scorer in school history, and was an All-American in 1950. The shooting guard was drafted by the Chicago Stags of the NBA. Others: Jim Horne, UB; Alex Morgan, Flash; Eusebio, Stallions.
14 – Rene Robert, Sabres. The right winger arrived in a very one-sided deal with Pittsburgh for Eddie Shack, and became a part of one of the last great lines in hockey, “The French Connection.” Rene stayed here until 1979. Others: Ryan Fitzpatrick, Bills; Bill Butler, St. Bonaventure; Frank Reich, Bills; Bird Averitt, Braves.
15 – Jack Kemp, Bills. The quarterback was acquired on waivers from San Diego, and guided the Bills to AFL championships in 1964 and 1965. Jack moved from the football field to Congress after the 1969 season. Others: Jack Eichel, Sabres; Ernie DiGregorio, Braves; Iubo Petrovic, Stallions.
16 - Pat LaFontaine, Sabres. He brought offensive excitement when he was acquired from the Islanders in 1991. Pat scored 148 points in the 1992-93 season – still the team record. The KeyBank Center might never have been built without him. Others: Ric Seiling, Sabres; Rich Kilgour, Bandits; Drew Willy, UB.
17 – Mike Foligno, Sabres. Acquired from Detroit in deal involving popular players Jim Schoenfeld and Danny Gare, Mike carved out a niche of his own during a long stay here. Foligno wore No. 71 after he was traded to Toronto. Others: J.P. Dumont, Sabres; Ryan Benesch, Bandits; Floyd Smith, Sabres.
18 – Danny Gare, Sabres. This second-round draft choice started on the checking line with Don Luce and Craig Ramsay, and wound up as a two-time 50-goal scorer. Gare was sent to Detroit in a huge 1981 trade. After retirement, Danny did some work on Sabres’ broadcasts. Others: Michal Grosek, Sabres; Kyle Orton, Bills; Naaman Roosvelt, UB; Kay Stephenson, Bills.
19 – Johnny Bench, Bisons. The future Hall of Famer played one game here in 1966, breaking a finger on a foul tip at War Memorial Stadium. A year later, he hit 23 homers in 344 at-bats, and was off to the majors for good. Others: Tim Connolly, Sabres; James Starks, UB; Cory Conacher, Canisius; Zeke Sinicola, Niagara.
20 – Don Luce, Sabres. Acquired from Detroit, Don became one of the best two-way forwards in hockey. He and Craig Ramsay were superb penalty-killers; they were often called by the other’s name during their time together. Others: Joe Cribbs, Bills; Robert James, Bills; Abby Wambach, Flash.
21 – Willis McGahee, Bills. He was a superstar coming out of U. of Miami, but a knee injury allowed him to slip to the Bills in the 2003 draft. He had three good years here, and was traded to Baltimore after he suggested the team should move to Toronto. Others: Brian Spencer, Sabres; Drew Stafford, Sabres; Christian Ruuttu, Sabres.
22 – Fred Jackson, Bills. He came out of minor-league and indoor football to sign as a free agent with the Bills in 2006. By 2009, Fred was a 1,000-yard rusher. Jackson spent eight seasons here, and was one of the most popular Bills of his era. Others: Lindy Ruff, Sabres; Nate Clemens, Bills; Willie Evans, UB; Tony Masiello, Canisius.
23 – Calvin Murphy, Niagara. The 5-foot-9 guard was arguably the most exciting player in Western New York college basketball history. The three-time All-American averaged 33.1 points per game, and had a fine NBA career after graduation. Others: Chris Drury, Sabres; Steve Priolo; Bandits; Rudy Pikuzinski, Blizzard; Adam Jones, Canisius.
24 – Booker Edgerson, Bills. He was one of the defensive backs on the great Bills’ teams of the 1960s. Booker is a member of the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame and the Bills’ Wall of Fame. He earns points for community work. Others: Bill Hajt, Sabres; Stephon Gilmore, Bills; Harrison Browne, Beauts.
25 – Luke Easter, Bisons. The African-American slugger probably would have been a Hall of Famer had he been born a decade later. Even so, he hit 113 home runs in three seasons with the Bisons (1956-1958), and was immensely popular. Others: Dave Andreychuk, Sabres; LeSean McCoy; Bills; Roland Hooks, Bills; Essie Hollis and Earl Belcher, St. Bonaventure.
26 – George Saimes, Bills. After a great career at Michigan State, Saimes became the best free safety in the history of the American Football League. George is on the Bills’ Wall of Fame and was selected for the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame. Others: Thomas Vanek, Sabres; Charles Romes, Bills; Derek Plante, Sabres.
27 – Michael Peca, Sabres. He was considered the heart of the Sabres teams that had some success during the late 1990s. Michael won a Selke Trophy as the NHL’s best defensive forward during the 1996-97 season. He was traded to the Islanders. Others: Larry Playfair, Sabres; Teppo Numminen, Sabres; Ken Irvin, Bills.
28 – Bob Sauve, Sabres. The goalie is best remembered for back-to-back playoff shutouts in Montreal in 1983. That feat has never been duplicated. Bob spent nine seasons in Buffalo, and won 119 games along the way. Others: Donald Audette, Sabres; C.J. Spiller, Bills; Thomas Smith, Bills.
29 – Jason Pominville, Sabres. He’s been part of the franchise since he was picked in the 2001 Entry Draft – if you don’t count those five years in Minnesota. Remember his short-handed goal in Ottawa to eliminate the Senators from the playoffs? Others: Mario Clark, Bills; Ken Montour, Bandits; Derrick Burroughs, Bills.
30 – Ryan Miller, Sabres. He was the team’s No. 1 goalie for almost nine years, and he might have been the best in the world for part of that time. The trade of Miller broke some hearts, and the team has yet to recover from it. Others: Tom Barrasso, Sabres; Ray Hall, Canisius; Jeff Manto, Bisons.
31 – Bob Lanier, St. Bonaventure. The greatest Bonnie of them all, he led the team to the Final Four of the NCAA basketball tournament in 1970. What if he hadn’t gotten hurt in the Regional? Bob had a great NBA career as well. Others: Daren Puppa, Sabres; Jairus Byrd, Bills; Swen Nater, Braves.
32 – O.J. Simpson, Bills. There’s never been a more exciting player in the history of the Bills, and his 2,000-yard season in 1973 will never be forgotten. Of course, his life after football has been a sad one for those who remember him as a player. Others: Rob Ray, Sabres; Jim Veltman, Bandits; Fred Hilton, Braves.
33 – Benoit Hogue, Sabres. This quick playmaker was drafted by the Sabres and spent three seasons as a regular. Then it was off to the Islanders in the Pat LaFontaine trade. He helped the Stars win a Stanley Cup in 1999. Others: Ronnie Harmon, Bills; Sam Gash, Bills; George Wilson Braves.
34 – Thurman Thomas, Bills. There wasn’t much Thurman couldn’t do on a football field. He could run, catch and block. No wonder he was the NFL’s Most Valuable Player in 1991, and is enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton. Others: Cookie Gilchrist, Bills; Jim Braxton, Bills; John Shumate, Braves.
35 – Matt Gantt, St. Bonaventure. The 6-5 forward was more than a supporting player for Bob Lanier with the Bonnies’ great 1969-70 team. A great leaper, he jumped center against Artis Gilmore at the start of the semifinal game. Others: Mika Noronen, Sabres; Carwell Gardner, Bills; Cornell Warner, Braves.
36 – Matthew Barnaby, Sabres. He was an unforgettable character in Buffalo, a tough and emotional player. Matthew wore out his welcome eventually and was traded to Pittsburgh for Stu Barnes, but fans remember him well. Others: Pat Kaleta, Sabres; Randy Mearns, Bandits; Nick Vitucci, Stampede.
37 – Nate Odomes, Bills. The cornerback was a second-round pick in 1987, and he took part in all four of the Bills’ Super Bowl appearances. Odomes left as a free agent for Seattle in 1994, and finished an eight-year NFL career with 26 interceptions. Others: Curtis Brown, Sabres; George Wilson, Bills.
38 – Mark Kelso, Bills. The Eagles drafted the safety out of William and Mary in the 10th round in 1985, but he found a home for eight seasons with the Bills a year later. Kelso had 30 career picks. He’s now serving as an analyst on radio for the team. Others: Jeff Nixon, Bills; Adam Creighton, Sabres.
39 – Dominik Hasek, Sabres. He might be the greatest goalie in hockey history, and we saw him at his peak. The Dominator won two Hart Trophies here as the league MVP, and led the team to the 1999 Stanley Cup Finals. Other: Bill Gerrie, Bandits.
40 – J.D. Hill, Bills. The first-round pick of Buffalo in 1971 was a dangerous wide receiver during his five years here, averaging more than 14 yards per catch in each season. He would have been even more dangerous in today’s game. Others: Robin Lehner, Sabres; Troy Cordingley, Bandits; Ed Rutkowski, Bills.
41 – Stu Barnes, Sabres. The forward was dependable and consistent during his four years here. He had always worn #14 before, but couldn’t here. So he flipped the numbers on his back – but still wrote #14 on his equipment. Others: Phil Villipiano, Bills; Ken Sutton, Sabres; Jamie Mueller, Bills.
42 – Tom Stith, St. Bonaventure. He was a two-time All-American for the Bonnies, and was the second overall pick in the NBA draft in 1961. Sadly, his pro career came to an abrupt end because of tuberculosis. Others: Butch Byrd, Bills; Richard Smehlik, Sabres; Walt Hazzard, Braves.
43 – Darris Kilgour, Bandits. An original Bandit, Kilgour won three championships in his first five years of pro play. He went on to have a Hall of Fame playing career, and then coached indoor lacrosse for more than a decade. Others: Tony Greene, Bills; Martin Biron, Sabres; Juan Mendez, Niagara.
44 – Elbert Dubenion, Bills. The wide receiver came out of Bluffton College, and became a standout in the early years of the Bills. In 1964 he averaged 27.1 yards per catch. Elbert was memorably nicknamed “Golden Wheels.” Others: Alexei Zhitnik, Sabres; Andrew Nicholson, St. Bonaventure; Anthony Cosmo, Bandits; Larry Fogle, Canisius.
45 – John Hummer, Braves. The Princeton forward was the first draft choice in the history of the Buffalo Braves, as the team passed over local favorite Calvin Murphy. He was traded to the Bulls for Gar Heard. Others: Hagood Clarke, Bills; Dmitri Kalinin, Sabres; Derek Keenan, Bandits.
46 – Khalil Mack, UB. It’s fair to call Mack the greatest football player in Bulls’ history. Come to think of it, he is one of the top five defenders in the NFL right now. Khalil was the fifth overall pick by Oakland in 2014. Too bad he didn’t just move down the road to the Bills. Others: Leonard Smith, Bills; Keith Moody, Bills.
47 – Curtis Brown, Bills. The running back from Missouri went in the third round to the Bills in 1977. He needed a year to become a regular, but was part of a couple of playoff teams in 1980 and 1981. Later in life he suffered from dementia. Others: Zach Bogosian, Sabres; Kirby Jackson, Bills; Peter Tavares, Bandits.
48 – Daniel Briere, Sabres. He came to Buffalo in a deal with Phoenix for Chris Gratton, one of the all-time steals for the Sabres. Daniel peaked in 2006-07 with a 95-point season, and then left for Philadelphia as a free agent. Others: John Pitts, Bills; Roosevelt Leaks, Bills; Marty O’Neill, Bandits.
49 – Booth Lustig, Bills. He’s remembered as the place-kicker who replaced Pete Gogolak, who jumped to the NFL’s New York Giants after the 1965 season. One of the game’s great characters, Booth also kicked for the Dolphins, Steelers and Packers.
50 – Al Bemiller, Bills. After winning a national championship with Syracuse in 1959, Al joined the Bills in 1961. He stayed nine years, and never missed a game. Bemiller stayed in Western New York after retirement in a number of roles. Others: Ray Bentley, Bills; Jim Cheyunski, Bills; Sam Pellom, UB.
51 – Jim Ritcher, Bills. He came out of North Carolina State as an All-American center, and was Buffalo’s top pick in 1980. Jim stayed through 1993, moving to guard along the way. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. Others: Brian Campbell, Sabres; John Tracey, Bills; Shawn Williams, Bandits.
52 – Preston Brown, Bills. The linebacker was a third-round pick by Buffalo in 2014, and didn’t miss a game in the next four years. In fact, he didn’t start in two of those 64 games. He left as a free agent this winter to sign with the Bengals. Others: Mike Smrek, Canisius; Curtis Blackmore, UB; Tom McMillen, Braves.
53 – Greg Sanders, St. Bonaventure. He came out of a Washington, D.C. high school (coached by John Thompson) and became the Bonnies’ all-time leading scorer. Greg was a standout on the 1977 Bona team that won the NIT. His number has been retired. Others: Will Grant, Bills; Mike Montler, Bills.
54 – Henry Nowak, Canisius. Nowak graduated as the Golden Griffins’ all-time leading scorer and rebounder. Nowak was drafted by the NBA’s St. Louis Hawks, but he went to law school instead. Nowak ended up serving 18 years in Congress. Others: Fred Crawford, St. Bonaventure; Eugene Marve, Bills; Dale Schuelter, Braves.
55 – Paul Maguire, Bills. His pro football career started when the AFL began in 1960 when he played in Los Angeles. The Bills added him in 1964, and he won two championships. After retiring after the 1970 season, Paul moved smoothly into a long broadcasting career. Others: Jim Haslett, Bills; Jochen Hecht, Sabres; Rasmus Ristolainen, Sabres; Jerry Hughes, Bills.
56 – Darryl Talley, Bills. The linebacker was a second-round pick by the Bills in 1983, and he stayed through 1994. Talley is considered one of the best players in his position during his era, and was a big part of Buffalo’s Super Bowl teams. Others: Sam Cowart, Bills; Keith Ellison, Bills, Archie Matsos, Bills.
57 – Tyler Myers, Sabres. The 6-foot-8 defensemen didn’t need much time to make an impression after he was a first-round pick in 2008. He won the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s top rookie in 2010. But his play slipped after a while and eventually he was dealt to the Jets. Others: Lucius Sanford, Bills; Lorenzo Alexander, Bills; Steve Heinze, Sabres.
58 – Mike Stratton, Bills. He ranks as one of the great linebackers in Bills history. Mike was picked as an All-AFL first-teamer for six straight years, and is on the Bills’ Wall of Fame. He’s best remembered for a hit on Keith Lincoln in the 1964 AFL title game. Others: Shane Conlan, Bills; Isiah Robertson, Bills.
59 – London Fletcher, Bills. This was one of the best free-agent signings in Buffalo’s history. Fletcher joined the Bills from the Cardinals, and he led the NFL in tackles in his first season (2002). London stayed five years before going to Washington. Others: Sam Rogers, Bills; Shane Nelson, Bills; Paul Guidry, Bills.
60 – Jerry Ostroski, Bills. For a tenth-round draft choice, the offensive lineman worked out quite well. He played in 106 games over the course of 10 years, and started at guard, center and tackle along the way. A knee injury ended his career in 2001. Others: Kraig Urbik, Bills; Dave Behrman, Bills.
61 – Bob Kalsu, Bills. Kalsu made the ultimate sacrifice for his country during the War in Vietnam. The All-American for Oklahoma was a starting guard as a rookie for the Bills in 1968. Then he joined the U.S. Army. Kalsu was killed in action on July 21, 1970. Others: Maxim Afinogenov, Sabres; Willie Parker, Bills; Dusty Zeigler, Bills.
62 – Jeff Yeates, Bills. The defensive lineman played for his hometown team after suiting up for Cardinal O’Hara in Tonawanda. He spent parts of three seasons with the Bills, and then had a long stay with Atlanta. This is the first number, counting up numerically, that has never been worn by a Sabre. Others: Ervin Parker, Bills; Dick Cunningham, Bills.
63 – Tyler Ennis, Sabres. The 5-9 forward was a first-round draft pick in 2008. Ennis had his best season as a rookie, with 49 points, and he finished with three 20-goal seasons as a Sabre. After two injury-filled years, Ennis was traded to Minnesota. Others: Adam Lingner, Bills; Geoff Hangartner, Bills; Tom Montour, Bandits.
64 – Harry Jacobs, Bills. He was the middle linebacker for the great unit of the Bills’ glory days in the mid-1960s, teaming with John Tracey and Mike Stratton. They played 62 games together, a pro football record. Harry played in all ten of the American Football League’s seasons. Other: Richie Incognito, Bills.
65 – Mark Napier - Sabres. The veteran forward requested this number because of his involvement with “65 Roses,” a group involved in the fight against cystic fibrosis. Napier had his best days with Montreal, but finished his good-sized career in Buffalo. Others: John Davis, Bills; Tim Vogler, Bills; Dave DiRuscio, Bandits.
66 – Billy Shaw, Bills. The offensive lineman came out of Georgia Tech as a 14th-round draft pick. He was all-AFL seven times, and helped the Bills win two championships. Shaw is the only member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame who never played a game in the NFL. Others: Jerry Crafts, Bills; Mike Thompson, Bandits; Ed Ellis, UB.
67 – Kent Hull, Bills. He was one of the most beloved members of the Buffalo teams that reached four straight Super Bowls. Hull was signed after a stint with the New Jersey Generals in the USFL, and then played 11 years – starting all but one game. He retired after the 1996 season. Others: Reggie McKenzie, Bills; Joe O’Donnell, Bills.
68 – Joe DeLamielleure, Bills. The offensive lineman was an All-American at Michigan State, and went in the first round to Buffalo in the 1973 draft. “Joe D” stayed here through 1979, and then played for the Browns. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2003. Others: Mike Williams, Bills; Langston Walker, Bills; Corbin Lacina, Bills.
69 – Larry Costello, Niagara. He played 69 minutes for the Purple Eagles in a famous basketball game against Siena in 1953. That prompted him to change numbers from #24 to #69. Larry was a second-round pick of Philadelphia in 1954, and was a player or coach for more than 30 more years. Others: Will Wolford, Bills; Conrad Dobler, Bills.
70 – Tom Sestak, Bills. He was a 17th-round pick by the Bills out of McNeese State, and found a home as a defensive tackle right away. Tom quickly became one of the most dominating defenders in the game. His career was cut short by a knee injury, and that’s why he’s not in the Hall of Fame: Others: Eric Wood, Bills; Joe Devlin, Bills; John Fina, Bills.
71 – Jason Peters, Bills. He was one of the great undrafted rookie signings in Bills’ history. Peters was raw coming out of Arkansas, but eventually developed into an All-Pro offensive tackle. His relations with the team soured over contract issues, and Peters was traded to the Eagles in 2009. Others: Mike Kadish, Bills; Mack Yoho, Bills; Brandon Goodwin, Bandits.
72 – Ron McDole, Bills. The defensive end had one of the great nicknames in team history – “The Dancing Bear.” McDole was a Bill from 1963 until 1970, and combined size and speed to become a top defender. The Bills traded the 32-year-old to the Redskins in 1971, and he played eight years there. Others: Ken Jones, Bills; Art Still, Bills; Luke Adam, Sabres.
73 – Gerry Philbin, UB. He was a four-year starter on the defensive line for the Bulls, earning several honors. Philbin was a third-round pick of the Jets in 1964, and he became a two-time All-AFL pick and played a key part in New York’s Super Bowl win over the Colts in 1969. Others: Jon Borchardt, Bills; Earl Edwards, Bills; Cory Bomberry, Bandits.
74 – Jay McKee, Sabres. The defenseman was a No. 1 draft choice of the Sabres in 1995. He arrived on the roster a year later, and stayed 10 years. Jay became known as one of the best shot-blockers in franchise history. He finished up his career with St. Louis and Pittsburgh. Others: Glenn Parker, Bills; Donnie Green, Bills; Jeremy Thompson, Bandits.
75 – Howard Ballard, Bills. He wasn’t really as big as a house, but at 6-foot-6 and 325 pounds, he earned that as a nickname. The 11th-round pick was something of a project as an offensive tackle when he was drafted out of Alabama A&M. He made two Pro Bowls before going to the Seahawks. Others: Marcellus Wiley, Bills, Jay Thorimbert, Bandits; Jonas Jennings, Bills.
76 – Fred Smerlas, Bills. The defensive tackle’s selection in 1979 showed the Bills were serious about improving their defense, and he worked out perfectly. The Boston College graduate made five Pro Bowls, filling up plenty of space in the middle of the line along the way. Others: Andrew Peters, Sabres; Wayne Primeau, Sabres; John Miller, Bills.
77 – Pierre Turgeon, Sabres. He was the second player ever taken first overall by the Sabres (1987). Turgeon was very good at times in Buffalo, but might be best remembered as the centerpiece in the deal that brought Pat LaFontaine here. Pierre did finish with 500+ goals. Others: Ben Williams, Bills; Stew Barber, Bills; Cordy Glenn, Bills.
78 – Bruce Smith, Bills. Buffalo had the first overall pick in 1985, and wisely took the defensive end from Virginia Tech. He merely set the NFL sacks and led the Bills’ defense in four Super Bowl appearances, terrorizing QBs along the way. Bruce might be the best defensive end to ever play football. Others: Jim Dunaway, Bills; Dave Foley, Bills; Jordan Durston, Bandits.
79 – Ruben Brown, Bills. The offensive guard wasted no time becoming the best player on the Bills’ offensive line as a rookie in 1995. A starter from Day One, he played nine years here and made eight Pro Bowls. Brown finished his career with the Bears, and started all 181 games of his career. Others: Dick Hudson, Bills; Eric Pears, Bills.
80 – Eric Moulds, Bills. It took Moulds a couple of years to grab a starting spot at wide receiver. Once he did, though, he was invaluable to the Buffalo offense. Eric caught 675 passes in his 10 years as a Bill, including a total of 100 in 2002. He also caught nine balls for 240 yards in a 1998 playoff game. Others: Jerry Butler, Bills; James Lofton, Bills; Geoff Sanderson, Sabres.
81 – Miroslav Satan, Sabres. The forward played for five different teams, but his best work was done here. Satan spent seven full seasons as a Sabre and had at least 20 goals in all of them – topped by 40 in 1998-99. He led the team in scoring six different times. Others: Bob Chandler, Bills; Peerless Price, Bills; Roger Vyse, Bandits.
82 – Frank Lewis, Bills. The wide receiver spent the second half of his career here after a stint in Pittsburgh, and he still could catch a deep pass once he put on a Buffalo uniform. Lewis had his best year in 1981 at the age of 34, catching 70 balls for 1,244 yards. He finished with 269 receptions as a Bill. Others: Don Beebe, Bills; Josh Reed, Bills, Marcus Foligno, Sabres.
83 – Andre Reed, Bills. He is Kutztown University’s contribution to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Reed was a fourth-round draft choice in 1985, and he became an immediate starter. Once Jim Kelly showed up a year later, the Bills had a throw-catch combination for more than a decade. Others: Lee Evans, Bills; Chet Mutryn, AAFC Bills; Sherman White, Bills; Darrick Branch, Destroyers.
84 – Ernie Warlick, Bills. The tight end only played in four seasons in Buffalo, but they were good ones. Warlick won two championships with the Bills. Twice he averaged more than 20 yards per catch, amazing for a tight end. Warlick later became a popular sports broadcaster in Buffalo. Others: Scott Chandler, Bills; Keith McKeller, Bills; Brandon Francis, Bandits.
85 – Kevin Everett, Bills. The tight end was drafted out of Miami (Fla) in the third round in 2005. In the opener in 2006, Everett suffered a severe neck injury on a kickoff that was considered “life-threatening.” He was forced to retire, but beat the odds to walk again. Others: Walt Patulski, Bills; Jay Riemersma, Bills; Charles Clay, Bills.
86 – Marlin Briscoe, Bills. He had a very odd-looking pro football career. Marlin is best remembered as one of pro football’s first African-American quarterbacks (Denver, 1968). When he moved to Buffalo a year later, he was a wide receiver. Briscoe caught 133 passes in three years as a Bill. Others: Mark Brammer, Bills; Dave Washington, Bills.
87 – Paul Seymour, Bills. He may have played tight end for the Bills in 1973, but he was best-known as a blocker and not a receiver. Seymour was a big part of the offensive line that helped O.J. Simpson rush for 2,003 yards that season. He only missed one game during a five-year career in Buffalo. Others: Butch Rolle, Bills; LaVerne Torczon, Bills.
88 – Tom Day, Bills. “Tippy” spent seven years as a Bill, and was an excellent defensive end during that time in the 1960s. He also was something of the center of the locker room, quick with a joke and a laugh. Day wore #88 for three seasons – winning two AFL crowds in that uniform. Others: Pete Metzelaars, Bills; Reuben Gant, Bills.
89 – Steve Tasker, Bills. It’s not easy to make a name for yourself playing special teams, but Tasker did that. He played in seven Pro Bowls in 12 years as a Bill, and was named the game’s Most Valuable Player in one of them (1993). Since then, he had a fine career in broadcasting on a national and local level. Others: Alexander Mogilny, Sabres; Lou Piccone, Bills.
90 – Phil Hansen, Bills. The defensive end was used to winning, playing on a pair of Division II national champions for North Dakota State. Then Hansen was drafted by the Bills in 1991, and contributed to three Super Bowl teams in Buffalo. He’s on the Wall of Fame at New Era Field. Others: Chris Kelsay, Bills; Ryan O’Reilly, Sabres; Clark Gillies, Sabres.
91 – Jeff Wright, Bills. The nose tackle had a short career but a significant one. He arrived in 1988 as an eighth-round draft pick from Central Missouri State, and left in 1994. In between, Wright played in four Super Bowls and had 31.5 sacks. After retirement, he went into the cattle business. Others: Manny Lawson, Bills; Ken “Baby” Johnson, Bills.
92 – Dhane Smith, Bandits. Buffalo hasn’t had that many Most Valuable Players on its teams’ rosters over the years. Smith is on the short list, earning that honor for his spectacular 2016 season. Dhane broke a variety of team and league records for scoring that season. He was a top draft pick in 2012. Others: Ted Washington, Bills; Ryan Denney, Bills.
93 – Pat Williams, Bills. He was undrafted coming out of Texas A&M, and it took some time to figure pro football out. But by 2001, his fifth year, he was ready to claim a starting job. Williams held it for four seasons, and then jumped to the Vikings as a free agent. Others: Doug Gilmour, Sabres; Bobby DiNunzio, Blizzard; Anthony Malcom, Bandits.
94 – Aaron Schobel, Bills. You almost had to be in Buffalo to know how good Schobel was – or at least played against him. The second-round pick in 2001 had 78 sacks in 133 games as a Bill. He retired in 2009 after nine years, and never played with any other team. His quiet exit was in character. Others: Mario Williams, Bills; Mark Pike, Bills.
95 – Kyle Williams, Bills. Here’s one of the great draft bargains in Bills’ history. He was a fifth-round pick in 2006, and has started every game at defensive tackle since his rookie year ended. Williams has become a beloved figure among Bills’ fans, who were thrilled when he finally reached the playoffs last season. Others: Bryce Paup, Bills; Sam Adams, Bills.
96 – Leon Seals, Bills. Here’s a defensive end who arrived in Buffalo with a memorable nickname, “Dr. Sack.” He came out of Jackson State as a fourth-round pick in 1987. Leon stayed in Buffalo for five seasons, and two of them were Bills’ Super Bowl teams. Others: Jeff Posey, Bills; Torell Troup, Bills; Erik Flowers, Bills.
97 – Cornelius Bennett, Bills. He came to Buffalo in a spectacular three-way trade with the Colts that also involved the Rams. Bennett was famous described as “Mickey Mantle in cleats” by then-Bills general manager Bill Polian. The linebacker played in five Pro Bowls during a nine-year stay here. Others: Corbin Bryant, Bills; John McCargo, Bills.
98 – Ron Edwards, Bills. The defensive tackle came out of Texas A&M in the third round of 2001 and spent five seasons with the Bills. He started every game in 2002, and saw spot duty in other years. Then it was on to the Chiefs, where he was a regular for four of the next five seasons. Others: Larry Tripplett, Bills; Dwan Edwards, Bills.
99 – Marcell Dareus, Bills. The defensive tackle was the third overall pick in the 2011 NFL draft. The Bills moved him right into the lineup. Dareus peaked in 2014 when he was named a first-team All-Pro. But his play slipped and eventually he was traded to the Jaguars in 2017. Others: Marcus Stroud, Bills; Hal Garner, Bills; Delby Powless, Bandits.