Note: Jim Kelly and Bruce Smith were Buffalo Bills teammates for 11 seasons, from 1986 to 1996, and both played integral roles in the team's four consecutive AFC titles in the '90s. Kelly was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2002, and Smith will join him there when he is enshrined Aug. 8 in Canton, Ohio.
Bruce, it’s my pleasure to welcome you to the greatest team you’ll ever be a part of. Becoming a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame is an honor that most players only dream about, and it’s something everyone involved with the Buffalo Bills knew would one day be in your future.
I can’t express how thankful I was to be a teammate of yours for so many years. I remember looking on from the sidelines, watching you terrorizing opposing offensive linemen and quarterbacks. I would sit there thinking, "Thank God Bruce Smith is on my team," because I would never want to see you rushing in on me.
You always had that look in your eyes before all the games, the look that told everyone you meant business. Behind that look was a work ethic that couldn’t be questioned. You wanted not just to be great but to be the greatest that ever played the game, and it showed in everything you did.
Hall of Fame weekend is something you will never forget. There are so many highlights throughout the week in Canton that make it such a special experience. Wait until you walk into the Ray Nitschke luncheon and look around. You’ll see guys like Merlin Olsen, Jack Youngblood, Dick Butkus, Joe Namath, Deacon Jones and so many other Hall of Famers. These are all people you idolized growing up, and here they are, standing next to you as equals. You realize that you are now one of them and that you, too, belong in this exclusive group.
The most incredible part of the weekend, of course, is the induction ceremony. Walking up on that stage is probably the best feeling I’ve had in my athletic career, not to mention the moment when I took off my old sports coat and slipped on my new Hall of Fame jacket.
While we had so many great times together on the field, what meant most to me had nothing to do with football. After every game, we would get together at my house, and you would go upstairs and talk with my mother, Alice, who was suffering from emphysema, just like your father did. You didn’t just stop and say hello. You took the time every week to have a heart-to-heart conversation with her, which meant the world to her. She considered you her seventh son. Not many people got to see that side of you, but I did.
Thank you, Bruce, and congratulations on a well-deserved honor. See you in Canton!