This edition of the Ed Block Courage Award Throwback features one of the best pass rushers the NFL has ever seen in Bruce Smith. His dominance with the Bills still haunts Quarterbacks to this day. Smith was born and raised in Norfolk, Virginia. Following his four years at Booker T. Washington High School, where he was an all-state player, Smith attended Virginia Tech University. “The Sack Man” terrorized ACC Quarterbacks to a tune of 46 career sacks, 22, came his junior year, and 71 tackles for a loss. Bruce earned first team All-American honors from the AFCA Coaches Association and earned the Outland Trophy for the nations best lineman. Smith is enshrined in the Virginia Tech Hall of Fame.
The upstart USFL and the NFL were in a battle for the top colleges in 1985 and Bruce Smith was at the center of the battle. Smith was select number one overall by the Buffalo Bills and by the Baltimore Stars of the USFL. The decision was an easy one as Bruce picked the Bills. Smith wasted no time in hunting quarterbacks racking up 6.5 sacks his rookie year, but following some help in the offseason from teammates and family, Smith racked up 16 sacks in 1986.
After a contract battle with the Bills, Smith became the highest paid defensive player in the league. During the 1990s Smith helped lead the Bills to four straight super bowls with Darryl Talley on the other side of the defensive line. They set the tone for the dominant defense that the Bills featured, even though they lost all four super bowls. 1991 was an injury marred season for Smith which lead him to become the Bills Ed Block Courage Award Recipient in 1992 after an All-Pro season featuring 14 sacks. Smith would stay in Buffalo until 1999, when he, Andre Reed and Thurman Thomas became salary cap casualties. Smith would go on to play with Washington from 2000-2003 before retiring.
Career Accomplishments plus Post NFL Life
The career stats for Bruce Smith are staggering to say the least. Smith finished his career with 200 career sacks, 1,224 tackles, 2 career safeties, 43 forced fumbles, 15 fumble recoveries, 2 interceptions and 1 career touchdown. Smith would break Reggie White’s career sack record of 198 in 2003 by taking down New York Giants Quarterback Jesse Palmer (yes, that guy). He was a two time defensive player of the year, eight time first team All-Pro, two time second team All-Pro, 11 time Pro Bowler, member of the NFL 100 All-Time Team, first ballot Hall of Famer and a member of the College Football Hall of Fame. Smith currently lives in Norfolk with his wife and presently, he and former Bills teammate, Thurman Thomas, are co-founders of Legends Energy Group, which helps families install solar panels and assists with other energy resources for a better future.