Bruce Smith is the only player in NFL history to record 200 quarterback sacks.

Super Bowl XXVIII - Dallas Cowboys v Buffalo Bills

The best player at each position in the NFL earns First Team All-Pro honors.  Bruce Smith was named First Team All-Pro eight times.  He also played in 11 Pro Bowls.  Considered by many to be the greatest defensive end of all time, Smith played 19 NFL seasons.  He recorded double-digit sacks in 13 of them, an NFL record.  The defensive backbone of the Buffalo Bills for 15 seasons, Smith led the Bills to six AFC East titles and four AFC Championship crowns.

A relentless defender, Smith was routinely double- and triple-teamed by opponents.  His strength, speed and agility made him one of the most feared defenders in the game.  At 6’4”, 262 pounds and lightning quick, Smith was nearly unblockable.  A ferocious outside pass rusher who could also bulldoze opposing lineman, he is the NFL’s all-time sack leader, with 200.  Smith also recorded 1,224 tackles, forced 43 fumbles and recovered 15 more.

Intelligent and possessing a tireless work ethic, Smith’s dedication to fitness allowed him to play 19 seasons – 15 in Buffalo and four with the Washington Redskins.  His best season was 1990, when he collected a career-high 19 sacks.  In his final campaign in 2003, Smith amassed five sacks as a 40-year-old.  The durable defender wreaked havoc for nearly two decades and was named to the NFL’s All Decade Teams of the 1980s and 1990s.

The lightning-quick Smith was named AFC Defensive Player of the Year four times.  Twice he was voted NFL Defensive Player of the Year. 

Born in Norfolk, Virginia, on this date in 1963, Bruce Bernard Smith shares a birthday with three hall of fame football players: former Notre Dame Heisman winner Angelo Bertelli, Amari Cooper and Antonio Gates.  Smith attended Booker T. Washington High School, where he was a classmate of Olympic lightweight boxing gold medalist Pernell “Sweet Pea” Whitaker.  At Washington, he was All-State in football and key member of the Fighting Bookers basketball team that won a state title.

Smith accepted a scholarship to Virginia Tech, where he became the greatest Hokie ever to wear the Chicago Maroon and Burnt Orange.  The Sack Man was a tour de force at Tech.  He made 71 tackles for losses totaling 504 yards.  Smith recorded 46 career sacks, including 22 as a junior.  A two-time All-American, Smith capped off his career in Blacksburg by winning the 1984 Outland Trophy as the nation’s top college lineman.

The Buffalo Bills made Smith the first overall selection of the 1985 NFL draft.  The ’85 draft was rich in talent, producing future NFL hall of famers Chris Doleman, Jerry Rice, and Kevin Greene [Greene is third on the list of all-time NFL sack leaders, while Doleman is fifth].  Coming off a 2-14 season and having missed the playoffs in 15 of the last 18 years, the Bills needed a lot of help.  Buffalo hired Bill Polian as GM, and Polian quickly transformed the once-lowly Bills into a powerhouse.  In addition to Smith, Polian snagged Andre Reed with the 86th pick of the 1985 draft and later traded for Steve Tasker and Doug Flutie, who went in the 9th and 11th rounds, respectively.  Reed became the best wideout in Bills history, Tasker the greatest special teamer of all time and Flutie, who is the finest quarterback ever to play in the CFL, became a Pro Bowler.

In April 2018, NFL.com ranked Bruce Smith as the second-best No. 1 overall draft pick in league history.  Peyton Manning [1998] was first on the list, while John Elway [1983] was third.

Prior to the 1986 season, Polian hired Marv Levy as head coach and signed Jim Kelly from the USFL, which had just folded.  By 1988, the Buffalo Bills were on their way to becoming an AFC juggernaut. They won six divisional titles in eight years and appeared in an NFL-record four straight Super Bowls.  While Kelly directed the high-powered K-Gun offense, Smith, who had been named AFC Defensive Rookie of the Year in 1985, was the face of the franchise.   In just his fifth season, Smith became the Bills all-time sack leader, a record he would better 119 times during his career.

Bruce Smith was named First Team All-Pro in eight of 11 seasons between 1987 and 1997.  He was named to the Pro Bowl at 35, a season in which he recorded ten sacks and 50 tackles.  Following the 1999 season, Smith, along with Andre Reed and Thurman Thomas, was dumped from the Bills roster in an emergency salary cap measure.  In the 19 seasons since releasing Smith, the Bills have burned through 11 head coaches, have failed to win a single divisional title, and have made the postseason only once.

A powerful run-stopper, Smith dominated the line of scrimmage.  His speed and technique were no match for most blockers, and his stamina allowed him to just keep coming. 

Mr. Smith went to Washington in 2000, where he signed with the Redskins.  In his first season in D.C., the 37-year-old defensive end recorded ten sacks.  It was the 13th season in which Smith had recorded-double digit sacks, which remains an NFL record.  In Week 14 of the 2003 season, Smith surpassed Reggie White as the all-time NFL sacks leader when he dropped New York Giants quarterback Jesse Palmer in a 20-7 Redskins victory at the Meadowlands.  He would record one more before retiring after the 2003 campaign.

Bruce Smith played in 279 regular season NFL games and 20 more in the playoffs.  A member of the Virginia Tech Athletics Hall of Fame, Smith was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 2006.  The NFL’s all-time sack leader was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2009.  During halftime of their home opener in September 2016, the Buffalo Bills retired Smith’s No. 78, where he joined Jim Kelly as the second player in franchise to have his jersey number retired [Thurman Thomas became the third player so honored in October 2018].

Happy 56th birthday to the greatest Fighting Gobbler in Virginia Tech history.

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