Bruce Smith (defensive end)
Smith at the 2009 Pro Bowl
June 18, 1963|
|Height:||6 ft 4 in (1.93 m)|
|Weight:||265 lb (120 kg)|
|High school:||Norfolk (VA) Washington|
|NFL Draft:||1985 / Round: 1 / Pick: 1|
|Career highlights and awards|
|Career NFL statistics|
|Player stats at PFR|
Bruce Bernard Smith (born June 18, 1963) is a former American football defensive end for the Buffalo Bills and the Washington Redskins of the National Football League. He was a member of the Buffalo Bills teams that played in four consecutive Super Bowls as AFC champions. The holder of the NFL career record for quarterback sacks with 200, Smith was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2009, his first year of eligibility. Smith was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2006.
High school and college careers
Smith is a native of Norfolk, Virginia, where he graduated from Booker T. Washington High School. Following an all-state high school career, Smith accepted an athletic scholarship to Virginia Tech. Known as "The Sack Man" (both on and off the field) of Virginia Tech football, Smith finished his college career in 1984 as the most honored player in Hokie history. Anticipating his future success in pursuing quarterbacks in the NFL, he had a career total of 71 tackles behind the line of scrimmage, for losses totaling 504 yards. Smith had 46 career sacks, including 22 during a junior season in 1983 that saw him named First-team All-America by the AFCA (Coaches) and Newspaper Enterprise Association. In 1984, Smith capped off his tenure in Blacksburg with the Outland Trophy, given to the nation's top lineman, and a consensus selection to the All-America Team.
Professional football career
Following this stellar collegiate career, Smith was drafted by the Buffalo Bills with the first pick of the 1985 NFL Draft. (Concurrently he was also selected by the Baltimore Stars in the 1985 USFL Territorial Draft but spurned the United States Football League advances and decided to play in the NFL instead, even as the Stars were a championship caliber team and the Bills were on the brink of collapse.) After a rookie season in which his poor training habits limited his effectiveness, inspiration from teammate Darryl Talley and finding love with a college counselor whom he eventually married inspired him to improve his game. He quickly became known as a sack specialist, with 15 in 1986 and a personal season-best 19, just three short of the then-NFL record of 22, in 1990. By 1989, Smith, in notching his 52nd sack, had already become the Bills' all-time sack leader, claiming a team record that he was to raise 119 times over the years. Some conjecture that his 171 sacks in Buffalo set a standard that "may be unreachable" for future Bills. Also in 1989, Bruce Smith signed an offer-sheet with the Denver Broncos for $7.5 million over five years, but the Bills matched the offer to retain him. In 1990, his defensive performance helped bring the Bills to Super Bowl XXV, though they eventually lost to the Bill Parcells-led New York Giants. Still, Smith had an impressive performance in the game. He sacked Jeff Hostetler in the end zone in the second quarter, becoming only the fifth player to record a Super Bowl safety. Later, Smith forced New York to turn the ball over on downs by tackling running back Ottis Anderson for a two-yard loss on a fourth down conversion attempt. Only a failed last-second field goal attempt kept the team from its first NFL championship (see Wide Right (Buffalo Bills)).
In 1991, though Smith's knee problems forced him out for most of the season, the Bills once again reached the Super Bowl. In 1992, in much better health, he was again a First-team All-Pro and was voted to the Pro Bowl while recording a team-leading 14 sacks.
By 1996, though the Bills' run of Super Bowl appearances had ended, Smith was still putting up prolific numbers, with 90 tackles and 14 sacks. In 1997, Smith had 65 tackles and 14 sacks and by 1998, although he was getting older he still had a respectable 50 tackles and ten sacks.
Smith signed with the Washington Redskins as a free agent. In his first season, he posted 58 tackles and ten sacks, although he was now playing in mostly passing situations. He pressed onward in pursuit of Reggie White's all-time sacks record (198, achieved in 15 seasons), which he passed in Week 14 of the 2003 NFL season by sacking New York Giants quarterback Jesse Palmer in a 20-7 win at Giants Stadium. Smith finished his career with 200 career sacks, the only person ever to reach the 200 sack mark.
Smith had hinted in interviews that 2003 would be his final season, but never completely ruled out continuing to play. However, on February 24, 2004, the Redskins released Smith, saving $6.5 million in salary cap space.
In his 19 NFL seasons, Smith played in 279 games, amassing 200 sacks, two interceptions, 46 forced fumbles, and 15 fumble recoveries, one of which he returned for a 33-yard touchdown. Of his 19 seasons in the NFL, 13 of them were seasons where he had at least ten sacks, a testament to his consistency year in and year out. He was also named All-Pro nine times. His 200 sacks give him the record for most career quarterback take-downs. As Smith spent most of his career in a 3–4 defensive scheme, a defensive scheme not geared toward creating sack opportunities for defensive ends, many consider the record particularly impressive. Indeed, Smith's peers elected him to the Pro Bowl every season from 1987 to 1998 (with the exception of his injury-laden 1991 season). In 1987, he was named the Pro Bowl MVP. Smith was twice named the AP's NFL Defensive Player of the Year (1990, 1996), twice named the NEA Defensive Player of the Year (1990, 1993) and four times named UPI's AFC Defensive Player of the Year (1987, 1988, 1990, 1996).
In 1999, while still an active player, Smith was ranked number 58 on The Sporting News' list of the 100 Greatest Football Players. In 2005, he was inducted into the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame. In 2006, Smith was voted into the College Football Hall of Fame.
On August 13, 2008, he was part of the inaugural class to be inducted into the Hampton Roads Sports Hall of Fame, an institution honoring athletes, coaches and administrators who made contributions to sports in Southeastern Virginia. Smith was inducted onto the Buffalo Bills Wall of Fame during halftime of the Bills' September 21, 2008 game against the Oakland Raiders.
In a particularly rich weekend for the Bills organization, Smith was joined in 2009 induction to the Hall of Fame by Buffalo Bills owner and founder, Ralph Wilson, Jr. Smith's former defensive coordinator, Ted Cottrell, the architect of the sack-rich Buffalo years, served as his presenter during induction.
On May 11, 2016, the Bills announced they were retiring Smith's #78. No player had worn the number since Smith left the team. His number was retired in a halftime ceremony on September 15, 2016 during a game against the New York Jets.
Smith lives in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Having returned to his home state, Smith works as a large-scale hotel designer, undertaking many projects with Armada Hoffler. Most recently, he returned to Blacksburg, the site of his collegiate successes, where he purchased the Red Lion Inn. He built a Hilton Garden Inn Hotel with 137 sleeping rooms and is working on redeveloping the site (Smith's Landing, hotel and restaurant complex). A Baptist, he is a member of Queen Street Baptist Church in Norfolk. Smith and his wife Carmen have a son, Alston.
Smith also works with Thurman Thomas in their new business venture, Legends Energy Group. They promote energy programs across North America.
- Class of 2009 announced, Official Site of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on February 3, 2009. Retrieved 2009-02-01.. Retrieved February 1, 2009.
- Wilson, Allen (August 19, 2009), "Bruce Smith: A rare talent: Bills legend's consistency and durability place him among the best defensive ends ever", Buffalo News
- LITSKY, Frank. "PRO FOOTBALL; With No. 199, Smith Becomes Sack Leader". NY TImes. Retrieved 24 August 2014.
- "Redskins cut four, including Smith". ESPN Sports. February 24, 2004. Retrieved January 22, 2009.
- Manese-Lee, Manese (May 11, 2007). "Red Lion Inn site plans become official". The Roanoke Times. Archived from the original on February 1, 2013. Retrieved January 22, 2009.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on February 21, 2016. Retrieved February 21, 2016.
- Associated Press (July 9, 2009). "Smith to appeal DUI conviction". ESPN. Retrieved February 11, 2011.