Wednesday, December 30, 2015

1977 Profile: Jim Carr

Linebackers Coach
"Jim Carr has been either playing or coaching in the National Football League for more than 20 years. Appointed to the Bills' staff in February, Carr spent the 1975-76 seasons as defensive coordinator and secondary coach of the Detroit Lions. He was the architect of the Lion defense that wound up third in the NFL rankings a year ago.
A 1954 graduate of Morris Harvey College in Charlestown, West Virginia, Carr was a two-way halfback. He won a job as a defensive halfback with the Chicago Cardinals in 1955 and played three seasons with the Redbirds before landing with the CFL Montreal Alouettes in 1958. Carr spent five seasons (1959-63) with the Philadelphia Eagles, helping Philly to the NFL Championship in 1960. He closed out his career with two years in Washington (1964-65).
Carr made a quick transition from player to coach, joining Norm Van Brocklin's Minnesota staff in 1966. He went to Chicago in 1969, was with Philadelphia during the 1970-72 seasons, returned to Chicago for 1973-74 and moved on to Detroit in 1975."

-Buffalo Bills 1977 Press-Radio-TV Yearbook

Monday, December 28, 2015

1977 Profile: Bruce Beatty

Special Teams Coach
"New special teams coach Bruce Beatty is linked with two of pro football's most hallowed shrines- Canton and Miami, Ohio. He was born in Canton, home of the legendary Bulldogs and the site of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He played (1948-50) and was an assistant for five years (1951-55) at Miami, the widely acclaimed 'Cradle of Coaches' which has spawned such giants as Brown, Hayes and Parseghian.
An All-Mid-American Conference tackle, Beatty played two other positions during his undergraduate career, seeing service at both linebacker and end. He passed up a pro playing career to take a position on the Redskin's coaching staff immediately after graduation. From Miami, Beatty moved to Northwestern where he stayed for 14 years (1955-68) as an assistant coach and talent scout.
The Patriots tapped him as offensive line coach in 1969. He remained with New England through the 1972 season when he accepted a defensive position (line) on the Oiler staff. After a year in Houston and a year out of football, Beatty was named offensive line coach of the Lions. He spent two seasons in Detroit (1975-76) before accepting Jim Ringo's offer to join the Buffalo staff."

-Buffalo Bills 1977 Press-Radio-TV Yearbook

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

1977 Profile: Jim Ringo

Head Coach
"Ringo started for years under Vince Lombardi, but is not getting Lombardi-type results. His coaching career got off to a slow start last year when the team was 0-9 after he took over. The players think he'll win one sooner or later, though. Despite his record, they wanted him back again.
Credited with developing the 'Electric Company' while offensive line coach from 1972-76, Ringo learned his business while playing center on great Green Bay teams. After playing for Ben Schwartzwalder at Syracuse and Lombardi at Green Bay, he should know something about discipline. He's not a screamer, but he boils inside.
Ringo took over the Bills when Lou Saban walked out two days before the sixth game of the year. Unless he figures out how to put together a defense quickly, his coaching career will be a short one."

-Rich Kucner, The Complete Handbook of Pro Football, 1977 Edition

"'I started thinking about being a player and coach when I was five or six years old and I never stopped.'
Jim Ringo's dream- to be a head coach in the National Football League- became reality on October 15, 1976 when he was named to replace Lou Saban as boss of the Buffalo Bills.
'We wanted a man we could build a future upon,' Bills owner Ralph Wilson said at the time of the coaching change, 'and we feel Jim is such a man.'
In nine games under Ringo last fall, the Bills lost by a little and a lot but, as he is quick to point out, 'they never ACCEPTED losing. The distinction is important. It turns last year agony into this year's anticipation.'
Early frustration is not new to Ringo. When he joined the Packers as a seventh round draft choice out of Syracuse University, Green Bay was a franchise in ferment. In Jim's first season (1953), the Pack was a punchless 2-9-1 and, over the next five years, their best mark was a break-even 6-6 in 1955.
Ringo endured ... and, ultimately, he succeeded.
He made the All-Pro team in 1957, no small feat for the center on a 3-9 club that finished dead last in the NFL's Western Conference. It became an annual honor for the Syracuse product, who was selected eight times before he retired in 1967. He also made 10 appearances in the Pro Bowl.
Ringo's quiet leadership won the respect of his Packer teammates who elected him Green Bay captain eight times.
In 1959, Vince Lombardi arrived in Green Bay and Packers fortunes turned sharply upward. Green Bay won the Western Division title in 1960 and the NFL Championship in 1961 and 1962.
Traded to the Philadelphia Eagles after 11 seasons with the Packers, Jim played four years in Philadelphia before retiring. He established a National Football record for endurance, playing in 182 straight games over his 14 campaigns.
Appointed offensive line coach of the Chicago Bears in 1969, Ringo stayed there three seasons before leaving to accept a similar position with the Bills in 1972.
Like the Packers of the early 1950's, the Bills of the early 1970's were long on problems, short on solutions. Buffalo was recovering from a 1-13 season in 1971 and was especially talent-thin on the offensive line. To add to the dilemma, seven guards or centers were lost to injuries in 1972. Despite it all, Buffalo improved its rushing production by 800 yards over 1971 and O.J. Simpson won his first NFL ground-gaining title.
A year later, the Bills were the talk of professional football and the offensive line the cornerstone of the attack. The 1973 season will be remembered as the year Simpson broke the 2,000-yard rushing barrier and Buffalo became the first club to gain more than 3,000 yards on the ground.
The Bills' 1973 offensive line was named NFL Blockers of the Year by the National 1,000-Yard Foundation, the first time an entire unit had been so cited. Ringo was also honored by the 1,000-Yard Foundation as NFL Assistant Coach of the Year for, as one writer said at the time, 'a coaching job that ranks with the best of his All-Pro accomplishments as a player.'
Two Buffalo offensive linemen won All-Pro laurels under Ringo's tutelage- guard Reggie McKenzie in 1973 and guard Joe DeLamielleure in 1975 and again last fall. DeLamielleure has appeared in two Pro Bowl games (1976, 1977) and tackle Dave Foley in one (1974).
In 15 seasons as a player and seven years as an assistant coach, Jim Ringo has established a reputation as an ultimate professional.
Professional ... no one word is more descriptive of the head coach of the Buffalo Bills."

-Buffalo Bills 1977 Press-Radio-TV Yearbook

Saturday, December 19, 2015

1977 Profile: Budd Thalman

Vice-President, Public Relations
"Budd Thalman came to the Buffalo organization in 1973 after spending 11 years as Sports Information Director at the U.S. Naval Academy.
A native of Wheeling, West Virginia, he is a 1957 journalism graduate of West Virginia University. He worked for one year in the Associated Press bureau in Huntington, West Virginia before entering the Army where he served from 1958-60 as Public Information Officer for Fort Jay, Governor's Island, New York.
Thalman returned to the AP in 1960, transferring to the Annapolis, Maryland bureau. He went to the Naval Academy in January 1962."

-Buffalo Bills 1977 Press-Radio-TV Yearbook

Thursday, December 17, 2015

1977 Profile: Jim Cipriano

Ticket Director
"Tickets have always been Jim Cipriano's business. Starting with the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad following World War II service in the U.S. Marine Corps, later with the Pennsylvania Railroad and the University of Pittsburgh athletic department, Cipriano has accumulated almost 30 years of experience in his profession. The likable native of Youngstown, Ohio was named Bills Ticket Director in April 1969.
Prior to his Buffalo appointment, Cipriano was Assistant Business Manager of Athletics for 12 years at the University of Pittsburgh."

-Buffalo Bills 1977 Press-Radio-TV Guide

Monday, December 14, 2015

1977 Profile: Stew Barber

Assistant General Manager
'An All-AFL lineman in his playing days, Stew Barber steps into a new role for the Bills. After two years as a college talent scout, Barber has been promoted to assistant general manager. His responsibilities include the annual college draft, the signing of all veteran and rookie players and the coordination of the college and pro scouting effort.
'We are putting a heavy burden on Stew,' owner Ralph Wilson said in defining his duties, 'but, as he demonstrated first as a player and more recently as a college scout, he is equal to the assignment.'
The Bills' fourth round draft choice out of Penn State in 1961, Barber was also drafted by Dallas of the NFL in the third round. He elected for Buffalo, and over the next nine seasons played in 112 consecutive regularly-scheduled games, was a five-time All-AFL selection and appeared in four League all-star games. Barber was a member of both of the Bills' AFL championship teams.
An All-East tackle for the Nittany Lions, Barber played in the Liberty Bowl, the Blue-Grey game, and the College All-America and College All-Star Games. He earned his college degree in economics and real estate.
After a stint in private business and some part-time scouting duties with the Bills, Barber landed a pro coaching job with the New York Stars of the World Football League. He moved with the WFL franchise when it transferred to Charlotte before it finally folded. Barber caught on with the WFL Chicago Wind in 1975 but left to accept a scouting position with the Bills."

-Buffalo Bills 1977 Press-Radio-TV Yearbook

Saturday, December 12, 2015

1977 Profile: Pat McGroder

Vice-President
"An early champion of Buffalo's AFL franchise was Patrick J. McGroder, the city's sports coordinator at the time Ralph Wilson brought the young Bills to Western New York. At Wilson's insistence, McGroder joined the club's front office in 1962 as Vice-President. The longtime Buffalo native serves as the organization's advertising sales coordinator and handles other special duties at the management level.
McGroder attended St. Joseph's Collegiate Institute and Hutchinson High School, and Canisuius and Chattanooga Colleges. He founded McKinley Liquor Company in 1942 after achieving the position of National Sales Representative for W.A. Taylor Importers. McGroder was the Buffalo Athletic Club's Sportsman of the Year in 1955 and winner of the Chamber of Commerce 'Good Government Award' three years later. His efforts in promoting professional football games for Buffalo nearly enabled him to secure an NFL franchise for the city.
He has remained fast friends with such legendary pro football figures as George Halas of Chicago and Art Rooney of Pittsburgh. In addition to sports coordinator, McGroder also served as Buffalo Parks Commissioner and President of the Police Athletic League."

-Buffalo Bills 1977 Press-Radio-TV Yearbook

Thursday, December 10, 2015

1977 Profile: Bob Lustig

Vice-President and General Manager
"Bills Vice-President and General Manager Bob Lustig has been an associate of Owner Ralph Wilson since 1948. When Wilson became one of the original members of the newly-born American Football League in 1960, he entrusted Lustig with the responsibility for signing many of the players on the original Bills roster.
Four years later, Lustig was devoting himself full time to the Bills operation as a Vice-President. He took on the additional title of General Manager in 1967. In addition to directing the Buffalo organization's administrative, ticket and stadium operations, Lustig also represents the club at official League meetings and sits on the Board of Directors of National Football League Properties, Inc.
The Bills General Manager was a key figure in the drive for a new stadium to house Buffalo's NFL franchise- a dream finally realized in 1973 with the dedication of a magnificent 80,020-seat facility in Orchard, Park, New York.
'We built the stadium with the comfort of the fan as our foremost concern,' Lustig says. 'We feel we have the finest football facility in the league.'
For all of his present association with football, Lustig's first love was baseball- a sport he played on the American Legion level as a high school student in Detroit, and later as a student at the University of Detroit. His college career was interrupted by Army service in World War II, where he saw action in the European theatre as a member of the 104th Infantry Division. He returned to Detroit following the war to complete his college education, then went to work for the Ralph Wilson Agency."

-1977 Buffalo Bills Press-Radio-TV Yearbook

Monday, December 7, 2015

1977 Profile: Ralph Wilson

President and Owner
"The face of modern professional football has been shaped by men like Ralph C. Wilson, Jr., only owner of the Buffalo Bills since their induction as an original member of the American Football League in 1960.
A sports interest that dated from boyhood stimulated Wilson to first purchase a minority interest in the NFL Detroit Lions and later to join ranks with Lamar Hunt and the other principals of the new AFL. The youthful owner chose Buffalo as the home for his fledgling franchise on October 17, 1959, and six weeks later named it 'the Bills.'
In the 18 years that have passed since, professional football has enjoyed explosive popularity and expansion, completed a major merger and experienced first labor strife and, more recently, labor peace. Ralph Wilson has remained involved.
It was Wilson and Carroll Rosenbloom, then owner of the Baltimore Colts, who had the first tentative talks in January 1965 that would ultimately lead to the AFL-NFL merger. A past president of the AFL, Wilson served as a member of the expansion committee and the AFL-NFL Negotiations Committee.
The Bills owner was prominent in the negotiations which resulted, this past March, in a new agreement between the NFL Management Council and the Players Association.
A resident of Detroit since moving there with his family as a youngster, Wilson won his undergraduate degree from the University of Virginia and later attended the University of Michigan law school. He enlisted in the Navy during World War II, earning his commission within a year and serving aboard minesweepers in both the Atlantic and Pacific theatres.
Among many business pursuits, Wilson is president of the Ralph C. Wilson Insurance Agency and Motorcar, an auto transport business. His interest in sports, however, extends beyond football. He owns a stable of thoroughbred race horses and is an avid tennis player, skier and golfer.
From the inception of the Bills, Wilson has played a dynamic and active role in the organization. He is determined in his effort to bring two things- 'winning football and a Super Bowl trophy'- to the NFL faithful of Western New York.
Wilson's contribution to the game was recognized by the weekly publication Football News, which named him Man of the Year in 1973.
'He has been a tower of strength in the administration of professional football,' the newspaper said."

-1977 Buffalo Bills Press-Radio-TV Yearbook

1977 Buffalo Bills Outlook

"There is a school of thought around the National Football League that says there is little wrong with the Buffalo Bills that the return to good health of quarterback Joe Ferguson and fullback Jim Braxton won't cure.
That school of thought ignores some elementary facts:
1. The Bills lost their last 10 games of the 1976 season.
2. In their final two games, the Bills' opponents scored 103 points against them.
3. Their head coach, Jim Ringo, hasn't won a game after more than half a season on the job. He went 0-9 last year in relief of Lou Saban.
If the Bills are going to move out of the pits of the NFL into mediocrity, then Ferguson and Braxton have to get healthy, certainly, but there's more to the Bills' problems than that.
Braxton, one of the top fullbacks in the league, suffered a knee injury on the first play from scrimmage in the first game last year and never played again. Ferguson suffered broken bones in his back in game seven and never played again. The season before, he threw a conference-leading 25 touchdown passes.
Braxton and Ferguson have to be healthy because the only way Buffalo is going to win is to outscore people. The Bills' offensive unit, still centered around O.J. Simpson, is still among the jewels of the NFL.
There seems little question that Buffalo should have traded the Juice for some defensive help last year. Such a deal probably could have been made with the Los Angeles Rams, bringing running back Lawrence McCutcheon and three defensive starters to Buffalo. But it wasn't made and O.J. remains with the Bills, an orchid in the onion patch.
The Juice gained 1,503 yards last year to lead the league- without benefit of a training camp. He broke his own single-game record with 273 yards against the Detroit Lions, then the No. 1 ranked defensive team in the National Conference. He rang up his fifth and sixth 200-yard games, an all-time record.
The only name that stands between him and the NFL's career record for ground gaining is that of Cleveland's Jim Brown.
Simpson's offensive line, one of the best in the league, may be even better in '77. Joe Devlin beat out offensive tackle Donnie Green in the last month of the season and the Bills think Devlin can be an All-Pro. The rest of the line includes one certified All-Pro, guard Joe DeLamielleure, another top guard in Reggie McKenzie, plus veteran tackle Dave Foley and center Mike Montler.
The chief offensive problem is that the Bills' passing attack has only one receiver of quality. Bob Chandler was even triple-teamed at times last season because no qualified partner could be found for him. The chief hope this year is that third round rookie selection John (The Comet) Kimbrough, a 9.4 sprinter from St. Cloud State, can take some heat off Chandler. If that turns out not to be the case, the Bills may play an awful lot of double tight end again, with Paul Seymour, a superior blocker but not much of a catching theat, joined by Reuben Gant.
On defense is where you'll find the team's critical- maybe fatal- problems.
The Bills made a defensive lineman, Oklahoma State's Phil Dokes, their No. 1 draftee. He is a player of considerable skill, but the word is that he must be motivated. That puts him in a class with the player who probably will start at right defensive end, ex-Bengal Sherman White. Tackle Mike Kadish and end Ben Williams should be the other starters.
Last year's best rookie was a linebacker, Dan Jilek. That makes him the only solid man at that position, since John Skorupan, the other outside linebacker, had his worst season and Merv Krakau is not the answer in the middle. The new linebacker coach is former Detroit defensive coordinator Jimmy Carr; his priority assignment is to resurrect the career of Tom Ruud, the No. 1 draftee of two years ago who has been a flop so far.
The Bills had better luck with their first rounder of 1976, cornerback Mario Clark. He made the All-Rookie team. The other corner, Dwight Harrison, has some hairy games but he is a super athlete.
The safeties, weak-sider Tony Greene and strong-sider Doug Jones are veterans. Something may have to give at a corner or safety for Keith Moody, a talented youngster who played well as a spot man in the secondary and did a top job of returning punts.
Marv Bateman's punting average, 42.3, led the NFL, but rookie Neil O'Donoghue will challenge place kicker George Jakowenko."

-Larry Felser, Pro Football 1977

OFFENSE
"Quarterbacks: The Bills must have Ferguson back from the injury list, since Gary Marangi was unbelievably bad in relief.
Performance Quotient: 3 [1 through 5, 1 being best]
Running Backs: What can you say about the Juice? It's just too bad he isn't with a big winner. Braxton was hurt on the first down of the season and didn't play again. He deserves a big raise off what his successors didn't do.
Performance Quotient: 1
Receivers: It's Chandler against the world. He may have been the NFL's most underrated offensive player last year. No one playing the opposite position belonged in the league, and that included John Holland. Seymour is a great blocker, but as a pass catcher he's a third tackle. Gant is handy to have when the Bills go into a double tight end alignment.
Eddie Bell may get work in an emergency. Fred Coleman is a prospect; Emmett Edwards isn't. Help is desperately needed at the wide spots.
Performance Quotient: 4
Interior Linemen: Foley is no ballet dancer, but he can drive block. Devlin moved in ahead of Green late last season. Coach Ringo thinks the youngster can be in DeLamielleure's class- and Joe D. is a Pro Bowl regular. McKenzie remains one of the class guards in the league. Montler shows no signs of slowing down, despite his age.
Green, Bill Adams and Willie Parker are savvy, skilled subs who might be starting elsewhere. Any of them may be used in a trade to bring defensive help. Ken Jones switches over to this side of the line after an unsuccessful try on defense. Bob Patton is the least of this group- and remember to consider tight end Seymour as part of this brotherhood.
Performance Quotient: 1
Kickers: Jakowenko is a 'hold-your-breath' field-goaler. Bateman's average led the NFL, but he's no clutch guy.
Performance Quotient: 3"

-Larry Felser, Pro Football 1977

DEFENSE
"Front Linemen: Williams did some good things as a rookie and he's quick, but he gets overpowered. White still hasn't been coaxed to play up to his ability. Kadish makes the effort, but he's limited.
Bill Dunstan was a spear carrier in Philly last year, but he may start with Buffalo. Things are that bad. Marty Smith and Jeff Lloyd are expendable ... and that's the case even though Smith started last year.
Performance Quotient: 5
Linebackers: New assistant coach Carr will try to revive the linebacking. Jilek was the best Buffalo had in his rookie year. Skorupan must snap out of his slump. Krakau gives everything he has, but it's not enough. Ruud, a one-time No. 1 draftee is a Carr development project.
Bob Nelson also falls into the reclamation category. Bo Cornell and Mark Johnson are valued as special teams players, but that's all. What the Bills need is a beneficial trade.
Performance Quotient: 4
Cornerbacks: Clark made the All-Rookie team in '76, but he has much to learn. Harrison is erratic but a fine athlete. Moody has big possibilities and may move someone in this secondary to the bench; Clifford Brooks has no such prospects. Former All-Pro Robert James tries again to come back from his knee injury. He's missed one and a half seasons.
Performance Quotient: 2
Safeties: Jones had some good games and some very bad ones. Greene hasn't played up to his All-Pro '75 season since hurting his knee.
Van Green and Steve Freeman can play in spots, but Moody may be switched back here. He is a top prospect.
Performance Quotient: 3"

-Larry Felser, Pro Football 1977

1977 DRAFT SELECTIONS
"Dokes was a motivation problem in college, but he's a sure starter with this talent-hungry defense. Kimbrough also has a shot at starting if he can acquire some technique to go with his speed and quickness. He and Curtis Brown should help as the kick returners. O'Donoghue is a good bet to take Jakowenko's job.
Jim Dean, Fred Besana and Ron Pruitt all have chances to stick, but if they play a lot it may be an indication of problems with higher touted players. Greg Morton is a middle linebacker prospect; he's got talent, but he used it in college as a defensive tackle.
Performance Quotient: 3"

-Larry Felser, Pro Football 1977


"The snakebit Bills, the NFL's top scoring team in '75, suffered a nightmarish 2-12 season last year when injuries to fullback Jim Braxton and quarterback Joe Ferguson (plus some horrendous trades) robbed them of the scoring punch they hoped would carry them to the playoffs. Lack of quality depth, the killing factor in '76, is the major problem confronting Jim Ringo who took over from Lou Saban in mid-season. However, if Ringo has upgraded his defense via the draft and can keep his high-powered offensive unit healthy, Buffalo could effect a dramatic turnaround and be a very dangerous factor in the upcoming Eastern Divison race.
'How can one man be so much better than everybody else?' asked Don Shula (Miami) after watching the incomparable O.J. Simpson in action. Despite a late a start and a succession of defenses stacked to stop his run, The Juice combined his explosive speed, incredible leg drive and superhuman stamina to power for 1,503 yards on 290 carries for a remarkable 5.2-yard average, thereby capturing his fourth NFL rushing title. Simpson starts his ninth pro season as the NFL's second all-time leading rusher and is considered by many the greatest running back ever to play the game. The yardage will come easier for O.J. with Burly Jim Braxton (6-1/245) wiping out opposing linebackers from his fullback slot where he keys the attack with his devastating blocking and inside power running. Classy rookie Curtis Brown of Missouri and Jeff Kinney should comprise the second-line unit with holdover reserves Roland Hooks, Eddie Ray and Darnell Powell also eligible for spot play.
Buffalo's excellent line salvaged some measure of satisfaction by dedicating themselves to assisting O.J. to the rushing title; The Electric Company turned on The Juice to the tune of a whopping 647 yards in the final three games. All-Pro Joe DeLamielleure (6-3/245) and big Reggie McKenzie (6-5/255) are among the best set of guards in the NFL and the keys to Buffalo's ground game. Donnie Green (6-7/260) and Dave Foley (6-5/245) are the tackles but stickout soph Joe Devlin (6-4/260) looms a starter before long. Mike Montler (6-4/245) does the snapping and is a tough blocker at center. Bill Adams (6-2/245), Willie Parker (6-3/250) and Bob Patton (6-1/240) provide depth up front.
Ferguson will restore balance to the attack with his accurate passing as he reclaims the quarterback post from Gary Marangi who registered a woeful 35.3 percent completion record last season. If rookie Fred Besana of California fails to impress, veteran Sam Wyche will be retained as the No. 3 man.
Clever Bob Chandler was Buffalo's only reliable target and ranked second in the AFC with 61 catches for 824 yards and 10 touchdowns. Ringo hopes that diminutive but very dangerous rookie John Kimbrough of St. Cloud State will jump right into the lineup at the other flanker slot where John Holland, Emmett Edwards, Eddie Bell and Ron Holiday failed to deliver the deep threat. Last year, the Bills were forced to employ two tight ends, powerful Paul Seymour and Reuben Gant, more often than not; both return along with reserve Fred Coleman.
The AFC punting champion, Marv Bateman, hopes for a repeat of his sensational 42.8-yard average on 86 attempts. Place kicker George Jakowenko converted 12 of 17 field goal attempts but may lose his job to Dublin-born Neil O'Donoghue, a 6'6/210 soccer-style booter from Auburn, who comes up with a rep as being one of the very best power kickers in the country. Keith Moody and Curtis Brown will do most of the kick returning with assists from Hooks and perhaps Kimbrough.
The Buffalo defense, particularly the defensive line, has been the major problem area over recent years; Ringo may well have resolved that problem via the draft. Top draft pick Phil Dokes (6-5/265) of Oklahoma State, a superb prospect with unlimited potential, looms an instant starter at tackle and could very well team there with another blue chip rookie, Jimmy Dean (6-5/260) of Texas A & M, a very quick and strong youngster. Mike Kadish (6-5/270), Bill Dunstan (6-3/260) and Marty Smith (6-3/250), the remaining tackles, will argue the issue. Tody Smith (6-5/255), a proven performer, will probable team up with spirited Sherman White (6-5/245) on the ends, while Ben Williams (6-2/260), Ken Jones (6-5/250) and rookie Ron Pruitt (6-3/250) of Nebraska are the backups. All at once, the Buffalo front wall looks quite respectable.
The Bills blitz their linebackers often which puts the spotlight on young Dan Jilek, who had an outstanding rookie season at his right linebacker post. Merv Krakau is a tough tackler in the middle while steady John Skorupan plays the strong side in good fashion. Tom Ruud, Bob Nelson, rookie Greg Morton of Michigan and Bo Cornell form the second-string unit.
Tony Greene, one of the quickest and smartest pass defenders in the game, keys the secondary at his free safety position. Doug Jones plays the strong slot while standout Dwight Harrison and classy soph Mario Clark handle the corners. Steve Freeman is the fifth back in pass situations. Other reserves include Moody, Van Green, Cliff Brooks and rookie Mike Nelms of Baylor.
When hitting on all cylinders, the Bills can outscore any team in the league, and for that reason alone they must be considered a dark horse contender in the AFC East. The success or failure of the '77 season will rest on the performance of the defensive platoon. With O.J. nearing the end of his brilliant career and hungering for a shot at playoff glory, Buffalo could prove to be a surprise, especially if either the Patriots or Colts stumble along the way.
'77 Forecast: 3rd Place"

-Football Forecast 1977, published by Lexington Library, Inc.


"At Buffalo, O.J. Simpson had another big season, but the Bills won only two games, the same as expansion Seattle. It came after three straight winning seasons when things were looking up.
Coach Jim Ringo is facing an uphill battle. The former offensive line coach took over when Lou Saban quit and the Bills' record stood at 2-3. Despite an 0-9 record, Ringo was rehired.
O.J. did quite well (winning the NFL rushing title for the fourth time) for someone who wasn't to be found in the '76 Bills press guide. The Bills superstar had asked to be traded to the West Coast and missed training camp. Owner Ralph Wilson never managed to work out the deal and finally chased down Simpson in the Los Angeles area and signed him to a multi-year contract which reportedly exceeded $2 million in pay and fringe benefits.
Simpson reported to the Bills the night before their opening Monday night game against Miami. Despite his lack of training, O.J. played well but the Bills lost their 13th in a row. Coach Saban almost quit after the game. Four weeks later he did resign.
There were other problems which affected the club last year. Wide receiver Ahmad Rashad wasn't signed after playing out his option. He was signed by Seattle and later traded to Minnesota. Robert James, an All-Pro cornerback, was ruled out for the '76 season after he failed to recover from knee surgery.
Jim Braxton missed the entire season after suffering a knee injury in preseason. And the big fullback may not be back with the Bills this year since- just like O.J.- he wanted to renegotiate his contract.
Quarterback Joe Ferguson injured his back and missed the last half of the season. And so the Bills carry a 10-game losing streak into '77.
There are some more O.J. feats worth mentioning. He set a single game rushing record of 273 yards, breaking his old mark of 250. He went over 200 yards twice, giving him a record six [200-yard games] in his career. He rushed for seven more 100-yard games. All told he had 1,503 yards.
Simpson got so frustrated last season that he got the boot from a game for fighting with New England's Mel Lunsford, who had slammed O.J. to the ground. In the earlier game against New England, Ferguson was racked up, breaking some bones in his back.
'What frustrates me is being in the league eight years and we're two or three years away from the Super Bowl,' Simpson says.
Other Bill highlights: guard Joe DeLamielleure made All-Pro and wide receiver Bob Chandler had 61 pass receptions. Also, Marv Bateman topped NFL punters with a 42.8 average on 86 kicks. His longest traveled about 78 yards.
Chandler enters the '77 season with a string of 27 games in which he has caught at least one pass. He has 191 receptions over six seasons. His yardage last year totaled 824. Reuben Gant, the other wide receiver, made the most of his 12 pass catches, gaining 263 yards. Paul Seymour and John Holland rank 1-2 as tight ends.
Ferguson had rolled up 1,086 yards in the air before being hurt. Gary Marangi was ineffective in his place, completing only 35 per cent of his passes (compared to Fergy's 49 per cent) and was intercepted 16 times.
The offensive line is solid with Reggie McKenzie, Mike Montler, Joe Devlin and DeLamielleure providing the muscle. Even O.J. is outspoken about the Bill's poor defense. He says: 'In a losing year, you can't have a good feeling about it. The only redeeming factor is that we, the offense, can look back and say, 'Hey we did it.' Our guys on defense need a lot of help. Management has dealt us some bad hands, and we've had to play with what we got. It's embarrassing.'
Tony Greene heads the secondary which also had Mario Clark, Keith Moody, Dwight Harrison and Doug Jones. Sherman White, acquired from Cincinnati for a No. 1 draft pick, Tody Smith and Ben Williams are the ends; Marty Smith, Mike Kadish and Jeff Lloyd are holdover tackles; John Skorupan, Dan Jilek and Merv Krakau head the linebackers.
George Jakowenko made 12 of 17 field goals and 21 of 24 PAT's."

-Dick Joyce, Complete Sports 1977 Pro Football Special Preview


"As one Buffalo fan expressed it, the best thing about the 1976 season is that it ended.
The problems began early with O.J. Simpson's indecision on whether to play or not to play, keeping matters a bit off balance for everyone, players and fans alike. Then, even before training camp opened, talented receiver Ahmad Rashad left the club after playing out his option. The Bills should have kept him, according to the best hindsight available. The pass reception unit took another body blow when J.D. Hill was traded away, and this was followed by the departure of three top-flight defensive ends- Walt Patulski, Earl Edwards and Pat Toomay. This trio left variously via the expansion draft and the trade route.
Coach Lou Saban hadn't counted on O.J.'s demand that he be traded, preferably to a West Coast club. With so much talent already leaving Buffalo, Saban suddenly found himself confronted with a situation bordering on disaster. Simpson finally returned, after holding out for a three-year contract said to be worth $2.5 million, but the whole hassle created a certain amount of dissension on the club. At one point running back Jim Braxton threatened to stage a one-man strike and refuse to play the first game against Miami.
Braxton relented and went on to play after all, but perhaps he should have stuck by his threat. Buffalo lost to the Dolphins, 30-21, and Braxton banged up his knee so badly he was sidelined for the rest of the season.
Although the Bills won a couple and lost a couple as the season opened, Lou Saban found the situation too much for his conception of the game and resigned as head coach after game No. 5. Offensive line coach Jim Ringo took over and presided over the loss of the next nine games, ending a miserable season made more miserable by highly regarded quarterback Joe Ferguson's shelving because of a back injury. When Ferguson left the scene, the Bills' debacle was complete. Only O.J.'s brilliant dash for a league-leading 1,503 yards and the brilliant work of rookie linebacker Dan Jilek managed to keep Buffalo fans from losing interest in a club that, only the season before, had roused the entire city with its bid for a playoff berth.
But the main question is: What next?
Coach Ringo looks at things realistically enough. 'Frustration,' he says, 'is difficult to finesse or forget. Even though the Bills lost [the record was 2-12 in 1976], it's to their credit that they never ACCEPTED losing. The distinction is important, and can turn last year's agony into this year's anticipation.'
And what about the defense?
Ringo says, 'Problems continue to plague our defensive unit. Offense alone cannot put us into a contending position. The obvious assignment: better defensive play, and soon. Last season, tackle Mike Kadish wound up as the only holdover starter [from 1975] on a completely restructured defensive line. We imported Sherman White from Cincinnati and started free agent Marty Smith alongside him at tackle. Rookies Ben Williams and Ken Jones shared the left end spot. Now, with Jones headed back to the offensive line where he played in college, the already slender defensive front wall is further thinned out. But we hope defensive end Tody Smith, picked up late last season from Houston on waivers, will establish his presence.'
Ringo joined the Bills as offensive line coach in 1972. He was given a great deal of credit when, in 1973, the Bills rushed for an NFL record 3,088 yards. The 43-year-old former Green Bay Packer served as an assistant coach with the Chicago Bears from 1969 through 1971 after completing a 15-year playing career in the NFL."

-Norman MacLean and Herbert M. Furlow, The Pocket Book of Pro Football 1977

OFFENSE
"Quarterbacks: Ferguson missed half the 1976 season with back problems, just one of the reversals that beset the Bills last year. Gary Marangi moved in, but a 35.3 completion percentage didn't measure up- Ferguson completes 50 percent. Sam Wyche is the backup's backup. If Ferguson doesn't recoup, quarterbacking will again hamper the Bills.
Running Backs: The late word from O.J. is that he now has hopes of playing for two more seasons (presumably this one and next) before pursuing a career in other fields. He has already made six movies. Braxton's knee is on the mend; he missed 13 games last year because of it. When they're together, he and O.J. provide the NFL's most devastating one-two running attack.
Roland Hooks, Darnell Powell and Jeff Kinney are good replacements. Rookie Curtis Brown is good at kickoff returns, too.
Receivers: The big man here is Bob Chandler, whose 61 receptions for 824 yards made him second among NFL receivers in 1976. The next nearest teammate had only 22 [receptions], and he was- guess who? O.J. Simpson, who rolls up yardage more ways than one. Paul Seymour and John Holland snared 31 jointly.
This unit could use another Chandler-type receiver. A newcomer is Eddie Bell, formerly with the Jets and Chargers. John Kimbrough comes with great credentials from college division circles.
Interior Linemen: The offensive line had both good and bad notices in 1976. The Buffalo rushing game averaged 183.3 per game, third best best in the entire NFL. Dave Foley, Reggie McKenzie, Mike Montler, Joe DeLamielleure, Donnie Green and Company did their job well and return to do it again. In the passing area, Buffalo quarterbacks were sacked 33 times- not too bad, but not too good, either. An improved passing game could make this unit one of the very best.
Kickers: In 1976 Simpson led the league in rushing, Chandler almost led in pass receptions and Marv Bateman led in punting with a 42.8 yard average on 86 boots. George Jakowenko is a good place kicker; he got 21 of 24 PAT's and 12 of 17 field goals in 1976."

-Norman MacLean and Herbert M. Furlow, The Pocket Book of Pro Football 1977

DEFENSE
"Front Linemen: An area for continued improvement. The defensive unit has ranked low among NFL clubs for at least two seasons, proving ineffective generally against both the pass and the rush.
Kadish is a blue-chipper at tackle, and in his college career Phil Dokes made 87 tackles and recovered nine fumbles. But help is needed here if Jim Ringo is to move the Bills up.
Linebackers: John Skorupan, one of a long line of Penn State linebackers, leads the group. Jilek was one of the better rookies of 1976. Beyond these two, the Bills have a way to go before this unit is tip-top.
Cornerbacks: Dwight Harrison plays his right cornerback [position] with skill, and Mario Clark proved he was cast properly as Buffalo's only first round draftee of 1976. Bob James, a former All-Pro, wants to play again, but an injured leg has sidelined him for two seasons now. Keith Moody opened eyes as a rookie.
Another defensive area that needs help.
Safeties: Tony Greene is the best of these. Doug Jones' year wasn't up to expectations. Van Green is coming off an injury; he missed seven games in 1976."

-Norman MacLean and Herbert M. Furlow, The Pocket Book of Pro Football 1977


"Last year's season began badly for the Bills when O.J. Simpson, wanting to be traded, reported late. Then their other big back, Jim Braxton, was hurt and missed 13 games. Finally, quarterback Joe Ferguson went to the bench for half the season with an aching back. With the Big Three of their offense gone, the Bills could not count on a strong defense- [it was] one of the NFL's weakest. Result: humiliations like the 58-20 beating inflicted by Baltimore in the last game of the season. The Bills ranked eighth of 14 in total offense; 10th in total defense.
Coach Jim Ringo, who took over from Lou Saban in mid-season, is counting on the return of his Big Three to score a lot of points, but as he adds, 'Offense alone cannot put us in a contending position. The obvious assignment: better defensive play, and soon.
OFFENSE: If passer Joe Ferguson comes back strong, backed by young Gary Marangi, the running of The Juice and Braxton, who is also a heavy blocker, could be terrifying. Ringo says, 'Defenses will be unable to afford the kind of undivided attention O.J. received over the last half of the 1976 season' (when he nevertheless gained 647 yards in three games). Behind Braxton and O.J. stands Jeff Kinney.
Ferguson will be rifling passes at Bob Chandler, who led the team with 61 catches, O.J. (22), tight end Paul Seymour (16) and wide receiver John Holland (15). Reuben Gant (12) often played with Seymour in the Bills' double-tight end formation.
The offensive line is the Bills' pride. This is the unit that spearheaded O.J.'s drive for 2,003 yards in 1973. The center is Mike Montler; the guards are Reggie McKenzie and All-Pro Joe DeLamielleure; the tackles are Dave Foley and Donnie Green. Ken Jones will shift to tackle from defensive end.
DEFENSE: The Bills gave up an average of 4.6 yards a rush, and opponents completed almost one of every two passes. On the front four, the strong spot was tackle Mike Kadish, who led with six sacks. Ringo will be looking for fresh faces. Among the rookies are No. 1 choice Phil Dokes (Oklahoma State) and Jimmy Dean, a tackle from Texas A & M. Holdovers on the front four include Tody Smith, Sherman White and Marty Smith. The starting linebackers are Merv Krakau, young Dan Jilek and John Skorupan. They are backed by Tom Ruud and Bo Cornell, among others.
The deep backs are Mario Clark, Tony Greene, Doug Jones and Keith Moody. Greene led the team with five interceptions and now ranks second in all-time intercepts for the Bills. Van Green and Robert James, a former All-Pro, return from knee problems to try to win jobs.
SPECIALISTS: Marv Bateman led the NFL in average with 42.7. George Jakowenko, the third of three place kickers tried last year, seems to have won the job. Keith Moody and Roland Hooks are among the kick returners.
STRENGTHS: If O.J. Simpson and Jim Braxton are together again, a powerful running attack; a cohesive offensive line; a dangerous passing attack if Joe Ferguson returns healthy.
WEAKNESSES: A shattered defense that needs total rebuilding.
THE CRYSTAL BALL SAYS: In a very tough division, the Bills will finish no higher than fourth- and they'll rise that high only with a big improvement in the defense."

-John Devaney, Schenley Pro Football Guide 1977


OFFENSE
"Even without a quarterback (Joe Ferguson) and a fullback (Jim Braxton), the Buffalo offense was 12th in the league, entirely on the efforts of one running back, O.J. Thataway (1,503 yards), one wide receiver, Bob Chandler (61 catches), and one of the best run-block lines in existence. With the return to health of Ferguson and Braxton, the attack will again be one of the best in the league.
Braxton, who earns his living as O.J.'s bodyguard, went down on the first play of the first game, while Ferguson lasted until the seventh game, when the New England linebackers held a convention on his back. The Bills never won without him.
There are deficiencies in the Buffalo lineup, like the lack of a second solid wide receiver to take pressure off Chandler. And while tight end Paul Seymour catches well for a tackle, nobody mistakes him for a game-breaker. But because of O.J.'s greatness, nobody really notices."

-Rich Kucner, The Complete Handbook of Pro Football, 1977 Edition

DEFENSE
"They've tried. Oh, how they've tried. First round draft choices, trades, purchases. You name it, Buffalo has tried it. And still, the defense is awful. Within the past four years, the Bills have used first or second round draft picks to take linebackers Doug Allen, Tom Ruud and Bob Nelson, defensive backs Mario Clark and Glenn Lott and defensive end Ken Jones. Clark, however, was the only one in the Bill lineup last year.
Incompetence in the Bill draft department has hurt badly, leaving Buffalo with a defense that gives yardage like the government gives away foreign aid. Y'all come. Everybody's welcome. Y'all come on back, y'heah?
There are some quality players like tackle Mike Kadish, linebackers John Skorupan and Dan Jilek, and corner Mario Clark. Others, like end Sherman White and corner Dwight Harrison, have the ability to be first rate performers. Adding defensive tackles Phil Dokes, a rookie, and Bill Dunstan from the Eagles is a step in the right direction. But it'll take more, much more to make the Bills a good defensive team."

-Rich Kucner, The Complete Handbook of Pro Football, 1977 Edition

KICKING GAME
"A disaster. Buffalo was dead last in defense against punt and kickoff returns. The Bills gave up nearly double the league average on punt returns. In other areas, the results are mixed. Marv Bateman's punting average of 42.8 was the best in the league. George Jakowenko was an acceptable field goal kicker but weak on kickoffs, and the Bills' return men were nothing special."

-Rich Kucner, The Complete Handbook of Pro Football, 1977 Edition

THE ROOKIES
"Although desperately in need of defensive help, the Bills used just two of their top six picks for defensive players, taking Phil Dokes (Oklahoma State) and Jimmy Dean (Texas A & M), both tackles. Dokes, a first rounder, should help immediately. Dean, a fourth rounder, might be a bargain. Neil O'Donoghue (Auburn) should provide place-kicking help."

-Rich Kucner, The Compete Handbook of Pro Football, 1977 Edition

OUTLOOK
"With an offense capable of scoring 40 points a game and a defense capable of giving up 45, the Bills won't be dull. They won't be winners, either."

-Rich Kucner, The Complete Handbook of Pro Football, 1977 Edition

Friday, December 4, 2015

1976 Buffalo Bills Preseason Depth Charts

OFFENSE
QB - JOE FERGUSON 12, Gary Marangi 17, Scott Gardner*
RB - Vic Washington 33, Roland Hooks 25, Darnell Powell*, Joe Lowery*
RB - JIM BRAXTON 34, Steve Schnarr 23, Bobby Joe Easter*
WR - J.D. HILL 40, Scott Piper*, Tony Williams*, Ron Holliday*
LT- DAVE FOLEY 78, Will Wilcox*
LG - REGGIE MCKENZIE 67, Art Meadowcroft*
C - MIKE MONTLER 53, Willie Parker 61, Robert Patton*
RG - JOE DELAMIELLEURE 68, Bill Adams 60
RT - DONNIE GREEN 74, Joe Devlin*
TE - PAUL SEYMOUR 87, Reuben Gant 88, Fred Coleman*
WR - BOB CHANDLER 81, John Holland 80, Forry Smith*, Reuben Gant

DEFENSE
LE - Jeff Winans 75, Ken Jones*, Bill Line*
LT - MIKE KADISH 71, Don Croft 72, Kirk Heyer*, Marty Smith*
RT - EARL EDWARDS 73, Jeff Yeates 62, Bob Kotzur*
RE - Mark Johnson 50, Ben Williams*, Les Benson*
LLB - JOHN SKORUPAN 55, John McCrumbly 57, Jeff Turner*, Gary Gorrell*
MLB- DOUG ALLEN 59, MERV KRAKAU 52, Bob Nelson 56, Arnold Robinson*, Curt Kral*
RLB - TOM RUUD 54, Bo Cornell 30, Dan Jilek*, Mike Taylor 92
LCB - Robert James 20, Harry Banks 21, Mario Clark*
SS - ED JONES 26, Royce McKinney 41, Doug Jones 24, Dave Walker*, Ken Sawyer*
FS - TONY GREENE 43, Steve Freeman 22, Ike Thomas 37, Jackie Williams*
RCB- DWIGHT HARRISON 28, Keith Moody*, Harold Little*

SPECIALISTS
P - MARV BATEMAN 7, Ian Sunter*
PK - JOHN LEYPOLDT 3, Bob Berg*, Meritt Kersey*

* rookie
1975 STARTERS IN CAPITAL LETTERS

-Buffalo Bills 1976 Yearbook

OFFENSE
Quarterbacks
Joe Ferguson (Arkansas)
Gary Marangi (Boston College)

Running Backs
O.J. Simpson (USC)
Jim Braxton (West Virginia)
Vic Washington (Wyoming)
Bobby Joe Easter (Middle Tennessee)*
Darnell Powell (Chatanooga)*

Receivers
Bob Chandler (W) (USC)
Ahmad Rashad (W) (Oregon)
Paul Seymour (T) (Michigan)
Reuben Gant (T) (Oklahoma State)
John Holland (W) (Tennessee State)
Scott Piper (W) (Arizona)*
Fred Coleman (T) (Northeast Louisina)*
(W)-Wide Receiver  (T)-Tight End

Interior Linemen
Donnie Green (T) (Purdue)
Dave Foley (T) (Ohio State)
Reggie McKenzie (G) (Michigan)
Joe DeLamielleure (G) (Michigan State)
Mike Montler (C) (Colorado)
Bill Adams (G) (Holy Cross)
Willie Parker (C-G) (North Texas State)
Joe Devlin (G-T) (Iowa)*
(T)-Tackle  (G)-Guard  (C)-Center

Kickers
John Leypoldt (PK)
Marv Bateman (P) (Utah)
Bob Berg (PK) (New Mexico)*
(PK)-Place Kicker  (P)-Punter

DEFENSE
Front Linemen
Jeff Winans (E) (USC)
Earl Edwards (E) (Wichita)
Mike Kadish (T) (Notre Dame)
Don Croft (T) (Texas-El Paso)
Jeff Yeates (T) (Boston College)
Ken Jones (E) (Arkansas State)*
Ben Williams (T-E) (Mississippi)*
Les Benson (E-T) (Baylor)*
(E)-End  (T)-Tackle

Linebackers
John Skorupan (O) (Penn State)
Tom Ruud (O) (Nebraska)
Doug Allen (M) (Penn State)
Bob Nelson (M) (Nebraska)
Mark Johnson (O) (Missouri)
Dan Jilek (O) (Michigan)*
John McCrumbly (M) (Texas A & M)
(O)-Outside Linebacker  (M)-Middle Linebacker

Cornerbacks
Dwight Harrison (Texas A & I)
Robert James (Fisk)
Mario Clark (Oregon)*
Royce McKinney (Kentucky State)

Safeties
Ed Jones (S) (Rutgers)
Tony Greene (W) (Maryland)
Doug Jones (S) (San Fernando Valley State)
Jackie Williams (W) (Texas A & M)
(S)-Strong Side  (W)-Weak Side or 'Free' Safety

* Rookie

-Pro Football 1976 published by Ballantine Books

OFFENSE
QB - Joe Ferguson, Gary Marangi, Scott Gardner
RB- O.J. Simpson, Roland Hooks, Darnell Powell, Bobby Joe Easter, Joe Lowery
RB - Jim Braxton, Steve Schnarr, Vic Washington
WR - J.D. Hill, Scott Piper, Tony Williams
LT - Dave Foley, Will Wilcox
LG - Reggie McKenzie, Art Meadowcroft
C - Mike Montler, Willie Parker
RG - Joe DeLamielleure, Bill Adams
RT - Donnie Green, Joe Devlin
TE - Paul Seymour, Reuben Gant, Fred Coleman
WR - Bob Chandler, John Holland, Ahmad Rashad, Forry Smith

DEFENSE
LE - Jeff Winans, Ken Jones
LT - Don Croft, Mike Kadish
RT - Jeff Yeates, Earl Edwards
RE - Mark Johnson
LLB - John Skorupan, Doug Allen
MLB - Merv Krakau, John McCrumbly
RLB - Bo Cornell, Tom Ruud
LCB - Bob James, Harry Banks, Mario Clark
SS - Ed Jones, Royce McKinney, Doug Jones
FS - Tony Greene, Steve Freeman, Ike Thomas
RCB - Dwight Harrison

SPECIALISTS
P - Marv Bateman
PK - John Leypoldt, Bob Berg

-Gridiron News 1976 Pro Football


OFFENSE
QB - Joe Ferguson, Gary Marangi
RB- O.J. Simpson, Roland Hooks
RB - Jim Braxton, Steve Schnarr, Vic Washington
WR - J.D. Hill, John Holland
LT - Dave Foley
LG - Reggie McKenzie
C - Mike Montler, Willie Parker
RG - Joe DeLamielleure, Bill Adams
RT - Donnie Green, Joe Devlin*
TE - Paul Seymour, Reuben Gant
WR - Bob Chandler, Ahmad Rashad

DEFENSE
LE - Mark Johnson, Ben Williams*, Les Benson*
LT - Earl Edwards, Jeff Yeates, Bob Kotzur*
RT - Mike Kadish, Don Croft
RE - Jeff Winans, Ken Jones *
LLB - John Skorupan, Doug Allen, Jeff Turner*, Gary Gorrell*
MLB - Merv Krakau, John McCrumbly, Bob Nelson, Arnold Robinson*
RLB - Bo Cornell, Tom Ruud, Dan Jilek*
LCB - Bob James, Harry Banks, Mario Clark*
SS - Ed Jones, Royce McKinney, Doug Jones
FS - Tony Greene, Steve Freeman, Ike Thomas
RCB - Dwight Harrison, Jackie Williams*, Keith Moody*

* rookie

-The Pocket Book of Pro Football 1976 edited by Herbert M. Furlow

1976 Buffalo Bills Radio Information

"For the fifth consecutive season, WKBW Radio (1520 kc) will be the flagship station for the Buffalo Bills football network. Al Meltzer will do the play-by-play with Ed Rutkowski and Rick Azar providing color and commentary."

-Buffalo Bills 1976 Yearbook

1976 Rookie Profile: Tony Williams

Wide Receiver
14th Round
Middle Tennessee
"Williams was the leading wide receiver in the Ohio Valley Conference in 1975 with 32 catches for 434 yards and three touchdowns. He transferred to Middle Tennessee when Tampa dropped its football program; Tony had been a two-year starter at flanker for Tampa."

-Buffalo Bills 1976 Yearbook

1976 Rookie Profile: Jackie Williams

Free Safety
7th Round
Texas A & M
"Williams ranked second on the Texas A & M defense with four interceptions and was credited with a pair of fumble recoveries. A two-time All-Southwest Conference selection at safety, he was an honorable mention AP All-American.
Jackie is a marketing major."

-Buffalo Bills 1976 Yearbook

1976 Rookie Profile: Ben Williams

Defensive End
3rd Round
Mississippi
"A first team All-Southeastern Conference selection of both UPI and AP, Williams also made the UPI and AP honorable mention All-America lists and played in the Senior Bowl. He was the preseason favorite of the Birmingham News as the outstanding defensive lineman in the SEC.
Ben was a lightning quick nose guard in college."

-Buffalo Bills 1976 Yearbook

1976 Rookie Profile: Will Wilcox

Guard
13th Round
Texas
"An All-Southwest Conference selection at guard with the Longhorns in 1975, Wilcox was a three-year starter who, in the last three years, has played in the Cotton Bowl, Gator Bowl and Bluebonnet Bowl.
Will is a finance major interested in music and hunting. His brother, Charles, is another lineman at Texas."

-Buffalo Bills 1976 Yearbook

1976 Free Agent Profile: David Walker

Strong Safety
Utah
"Walker was a two-year letter winner at defensive back for Utah after earning All-Conference and All-America honorable mention in junior college. He was also a track star at Utah, setting a long jump record while winning the Western Athletic Conference indoor title in 1971 (25'1").
David played with the Edmonton Eskimos of the CFL from 1971-73 and half a season with the Detroit Wheels of the WFL in 1974.
A physical education major in college, David would like to get into coaching."

-Buffalo Bills 1976 Yearbook

1976 Rookie Profile: Jeff Turner

Linebacker
9th Round
Kansas
"Turner switched to linebacker in 1975 after lettering for two years as a defensive end. He was involved in 38 tackles as a senior (20 unassisted) and had a pass interceptions against Oklahoma. Jeff has played in the Liberty Bowl and the Sun Bowl.
A physical education and health major, Jeff like to work with students in elementary education. He enjoys music."

-Buffalo Bills 1976 Yearbook

1976 Free Agent Profile: Mike Taylor

Linebacker
Michigan
"Mike was the second pick of the New York Jets in the first round of the 1972 draft and played in 14 games for the Jets, starting five of the last six, and had a pass interception. He appeared in eight games with the Jets in 1973 and played with the Detroit Wheels in 1974.
A physical education major, Mike was a three-year starter at Michigan, two at outside linebacker and one in the middle. He was an All-Big Ten and All-America selectee."

-Buffalo Bills 1976 Yearbook

1976 Rookie Profile: Forry Smith

Wide Receiver
11th Round
Iowa State
"A second team All-Big Eight selection in 1975, Smith led Iowa State in receiving last year with 31 catches, more than three times the second leading receiver in a run-oriented offense. He was a two-time member of the All-Big Eight Academic team and also lettered in track.
Forry is an education major interested in coaching and banking. He lists music and sports cars as his hobbies."

-Buffalo Bills 1976 Yearbook

1976 Rookie Profile: Arnold Robinson

Linebacker
15th Round
Bethune Cookman
"Robinson was a four-year starter and a four-time All-Conference selection at Bethune Cookman, which had a record of 32-10-1 over that period. The team was 10-1 and nationally ranked among black schools in 1975.
The team captain last fall, Arnold's career total of 25 interceptions included six as a senior when he was involved in 104 tackles (including 57 solo efforts).
Arnold is a physical education major who enjoys working with cars and playing the piano."

-Buffalo Bills 1976 Yearbook

1976 Rookie Profile: Darnell Powell

Running Back
6th Round
Chattanooga
"Powell rushed for over 1,500 yards in three years at Chattanooga. He led the team with 618 yards as a junior when he was also the top kick returner with 482 yards in 20 returns, including a 90-yarder for a touchdown. His total offense for three years neared 2,400 yards.
Darnell was the top running back taken by the Bills in the 1976 draft."

-Buffalo Bills 1976 Yearbook

1976 Rookie Profile: Scott Piper

Wide Receiver
6th Round
Arizona
"The leading receiver for Arizona in 1975, catching 45 passes for 718 yards and seven touchdowns, Piper ranked 18th in the NCAA with an average of 4.1 receptions per game. He caught 46 passes as a a junior, 98 in his career, and was an All-Western Athletic Conference pick as a junior. His nickname is 'Mr. Clutch.'
Scott is a law enforcement major."

-Buffalo Bills 1976 Yearbook

1976 Free Agent Profile: Robert Patton

Center-Long Snapper
Delaware
"Patton was the mainstay of a strong Delaware offensive line. He played at both guard and center before starting all games at center in 1975.
Robert lettered for three years and consistently graded very high with his quickness and agility, two big assets. He can center the ball for punts and field goals.
He won eight letters in high school."

-Buffalo Bills 1976 Yearbook

1976 Rookie Profile: Keith Moody

Cornerback-Punt Returner
10th Round
Syracuse
"Moody was an ECAC first team selection in 1975 as the top Syracuse defensive back and punt returner. He picked off six passes last fall and returned 28 punts for an 8.1 yard average. Keith earned three letters and played in the American Bowl last winter. He sat out the 1974 season.
He's a physical education major interested in counseling and public relations work. His nickname is 'Juice.'"

-Buffalo Bills 1976 Yearbook

1976 Rookie Profile: Art Meadowcroft

Guard
8th Round
Minnesota
"Meadowcraft was a three-year letterman with the Gophers where he played tight end and tackle before moving to guard. He started every game the last two years and logged more playing time than any other Minnesota lineman.
Art is a business major."

-Buffalo Bills 1976 Yearbook

1976 Rookie Profile: Joe Lowery

Running Back
12th Round
Jackson State
"Lowery was an honorable mention All-Conference selection in 1974 and 1975 and earned four varsity letters. He gained over 1,000 yards rushing in three years and had over 400 yards receiving.
Joe was voted MVP by his team in a game against Nebraska in 1975. His best game was a 110-yard, two touchdown performance against Alcorn State. He missed three games of his senior year with an injury.
He's a health and physical education major interested in welding. Dancing and basketball are his hobbies."

-Buffalo Bills 1976 Yearbook

1976 Free Agent Profile: Harold Little

Cornerback
Albany State
"Little played both defensive end and linebacker at Albany State and will be tried at defensive back with the Bills. He ran a 4.6 40-yard sprint and impressed the coaches with his speed in spring mini-camp."

-Buffalo Bills 1976 Yearbook

1976 Free Agent Profile: Bill Line

Defensive End
Southern Methodist
"Line was a three-year letterman at SMU and played in the 1968 Blue Bonnet Bowl. He was signed by New Orleans in 1971. In 1972, he played with the Dallas Cowboys and was traded to the Bears in a deal for Jack Concannon."

-Buffalo Bills 1976 Yearbook

1976 Free Agent Profile: Curt Kral

Middle Linebacker
Slippery Rock
"Kral was a defensive end at Slippery Rock where he earned three letters, was first team All-Pennsylvania Conference and NAIA District I, and an honorable mention NAIA and NCAA College Division All-America selection. He played in the Knute Rockne Bowl in 1972.
Curt played part of the 1974 season with the Philadelphia Bell in the WFL. He was a health science major interested in coaching or athletic training. He enjoys fishing and reading the Bible."

-Buffalo Bills 1976 Yearbook

1976 Rookie Profile: Bob Kotzur

Defensive Tackle
9th Round
Southwest Texas
"Kotzur was a first team NAIA All-American choice and a unanimous All-Lone Star Conference selection. He was a four-year letter winner who led the team in tackles in 1975 and also had a pair of pass interceptions. He was an honorable mention All-America as a junior.
Bob was a physical education major."

-Buffalo Bills 1976 Yearbook

1976 Rookie Profile: Ken Jones

Defensive End
2nd Round
Arkansas State
"Jones was a first team All-America selection of the Football Writers and the Sporting News, and also a third team AP pick. He played in the East-West Shrine game and the Senior Bowl.
Ken was a two-year starter at guard where he led the top rushing offense in college football in 1975, but will be tried at defensive end. He played nose guard as a freshman and earned All-Conference honors. He missed most of his sophomore year with an appendectomy but played three games as a fullback and a tight end.
Ken is a physical education major. His brother Rodney plays football for Arkansas State."

-Buffalo Bills 1976 Yearbook

1976 Rookie Profile: Dan Jilek

Linebacker
4th Round
Michigan
"Jilek was a two-time All-Big Ten selection of both AP and UPI at defensive end but will switch to linebacker with the Bills. An honorable mention All-America, he played in the Hula Bowl and the Japan Bowl and was a candidate for Academic All-America honors.
Dan ranked sixth on the Michigan squad last year with 99 tackles, including 70 solo stops, and also had a pass interception. He was involved in 80 tackles as a junior, including 10 for losses of 53 yards.
A speech and political science major, his father is the football and basketball coach at Henry Ford High School in Detroit."

-Buffalo Bills 1976 Yearbook

1976 Rookie Profile: Scott Gardner

Quarterback
8th Round
Virginia
"Gardner accounted for over 6,000 yards of total offense in his four years as a starting quarterback at Virginia. He threw 33 touchdown passes and scored 13 touchdowns running.
Scott had an outstanding junior year when he hit on 56.4% of passes and threw 14 touchdown passes despite missing the final four games with a leg injury. He won All-Atlantic Coast Conference honors in 1973 and 1974 and was winner of the Brian Piccolo Award in 1975 as the most courageous player in the ACC. Scott holds all Virginia passing and total offense records.
A commerce major who turned down a $25,000 contract offer in baseball, Scott earned three baseball letters and was drafted by the Kansas City Royals."

-Buffalo Bills 1976 Yearbook

1976 Rookie Profile: Gary Gorrell

Linebacker
16th Round
Boise State
"Gorrell was an All-Big Sky linebacker in 1975 when he was involved in 94 tackles. He also had a pass interception and was credited with two fumble recoveries and a quarterback sack.
Gary was a three-year letterman who also had a pass interception in 1974. He's a left-footed punter, and also lettered in track. He was a high school All-America."

-Buffalo Bills 1976 Yearbook

1976 Rookie Profile: Bobby Joe Easter

Running Back
8th Round
Middle Tennessee
"Easter was a versatile performer at Middle Tennessee who rushed for 791 yards and six touchdowns in his senior year. He played four different positions as a junior and was the top natural athlete on the squad. Bobby Joe has played quarterback, running back and flanker, and caught 11 passes for over 240 yards and two touchdowns in his final two years."

-Buffalo Bills 1976 Yearbook

1976 Rookie Profile: Joe Devlin

Offensive Tackle
2nd Round
Iowa
"From Iowa, the Bills rate him the best offensive lineman in the nation. He and Ken Jones, the Bills' second draft choice, were consensus All-Americans."

-John Devaney, Schenley Pro Football Guide 1976

"Devlin was a first team All-America selection of the Sporting News, an honorable mention UPI All-America and first team All-Big Ten in 1975. He was a three-year starter at Iowa, playing at both guard and tackle, and invited to the 1975 Blue-Grey Game.
Joe is a liberal arts major interested in conservation and forestry management. His brother, Robert, plays basketball at Maryland and another brother, Mark, plays football at Penn State. Joe's hobbies include hunting, camping, fishing, music and boxing."

-Buffalo Bills 1976 Yearbook

1976 Rookie Profile: Fred Coleman

Tight End
5th Round
Northeast Louisiana
"Coleman was an honorable mention AP All-America in 1975 after earning second team AP All-America College Division honors as a junior. He caught 43 passes for 580 yards last year to lead Northeast Louisiana in receiving and earned Offensive Player of the Week honors in 1974 after his 22-yard touchdown catch helped beat Eastern Michigan. He's a strong blocker with 76 career receptions.
Fred is a social work major who is a member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Music and reading are his hobbies. He's interested in social welfare."

-Buffalo Bills 1976 Yearbook

1976 Rookie Profile: Mario Clark

Cornerback
1st Round
Oregon
"From Oregon, he picked off 13 passes in his college career. He is the first defensive back ever selected by Buffalo in the opening round."

-John Devaney, Schenley Pro Football Guide 1976

"Clark was an All-Pacific Eight selection of both AP and UPI, and an honorable mention AP All-America. He was a four-year letterman with 13 career interceptions and the first freshman in Pacific Eight history to be named National Player of the Week when he was honored after making two interceptions in Oregon's 15-13 upset of Stanford in 1972. Mario appeared in the East-West Shrine Game and the Senior Bowl and was named defensive player of the game in the Senior Bowl.
Mario is an architecture and real estate major whose hobbies include music and re-upholstering furniture."

-Buffalo Bills 1976 Yearbook

1976 Rookie Profile: Bob Berg

Place Kicker
17th Round
New Mexico
"Berg was an All-America choice of the football writers and a two-time All-Western Athletic Conference selection. He set an NCAA record for career field goal accuracy, hitting 73.2% (41 of 56). Bob kicked a 43-yard field goal with no time left on the clock to beat Wyoming in 1973 and hit five field goals against Fresno State. He was a walk-on at New Mexico.
Bob earned All-Academic Western Athletic Conference honors three straight years and was four times a dean's list student who majored in studio arts. He enjoys woodworking, fishing and golf."

-Buffalo Bills 1976 Yearbook

1976 Rookie Profile: Leslie Benson

Defensive End
6th Round
Baylor
"A three-year letter winner for Baylor, Benson played defensive tackle as a senior but will be tried as an end with the Bills. He was a noseguard in 1974 when he averaged seven 'first hits' per game.
He was a pre-med major."

-Buffalo Bills 1976 Yearbook

1976 Profile: Jeff Yeates

Defensive Tackle
No. 62
Boston College
"Yeates appeared in 13 games in 1975 after seeing action in 10 contests during the 1974 campaign. He continues to improve after missing the entire 1973 season recovering from a knee injury. Jeff blocked a field goal in the final minute against the Patriots to preserve a 29-28 Bills win in 1974.
The fourth draft pick of Buffalo in 1973, Jeff has exceptional quickness for a lineman. He can play either end of tackle and has been used as a nose guard in the 3-4 alignment.
Jeff was a three-year letterman and a defensive leader at Boston College. He made the All-East team as a senior and was chosen to play in the Senior Bowl. He earned his degree in management."

-Buffalo Bills 1976 Yearbook

1976 Profile: Jeff Winans

Defensive End
No. 75
USC
"Winans appeared in 11 games last year, missing three with an ankle injury and starting three. He was credited with a fumble recovery against St. Louis.
Jeff came back following knee surgery during the 1974 season after he missed the entire '74 season. He had surgery to correct an ankle problem in the off-season this winter. He was picked by the Bills in the second round of the 1973 draft.
Winans was an honorable mention All-America for John McKay at USC, made second team All-Pacific Eight Conference and was a member of the College All-Star team. He attended Modesto Junior College for two years, winning letters in football, basketball and track. Jeff scored a high of 41 points in a JC basketball game and threw the shot a Modesto record 55 feet, 11 inches.
Jeff's undergraduate major was physical education with a minor in business and he's interested in the coaching and teaching professions. Hunting, fishing and golf are among his favorite pastimes."

-Buffalo Bills 1976 Yearbook

1976 Profile: Vic Washington

Running Back
No. 33
Wyoming
"Washington will be coming back from knee surgery in the off-season. He was the leading kickoff returner with the Bills in 1975, running back 35 kickoffs for 923 yards, a 26.4 average. The fourth leading kickoff returner in the AFC, Vic also backed up Jim Braxton at running back and saw action for three games at safety. He had 49 rushing yards on nine carries and caught two passes for 21 yards.
Vic accumulated over 2,000 rushing yards with San Francisco and Houston before coming to Buffalo and has accounted for over 6,300 total yards in rushing, receiving and kickoff returns in five years in the NFL. He played three years with the 49ers and one year with Houston after three seasons in the Canadian League. A fourth round draft choice of San Francisco in 1970, Vic was the leading rushing for the 49ers in 1971 with 811 yards.
He played two years at Wyoming and earned All-Western Athletic Conference honors both seasons. Vic led the nation in punt returns as a sophomore, was second as a junior, and played both offense and defense."

-Buffalo Bills 1976 Yearbook

1976 Profile: Ike Thomas

Defensive Back
No. 37
Bishop
"Thomas played in the final five games last year with the Bills and came up with two big interceptions; one against New England was returned 58 yards and set up the Bills' clinching score in a 45-31 win, and the other interception was also against New England.
Ike signed as a free agent last fall after playing for the WFL in 1974. A second round draft pick of Dallas in 1971, he played one year with the Cowboys and two with Green Bay, and was used mostly as a kick return specialist.
Ike was an NAIA All-District cornerback at Bishop. He makes his home in Dallas."

-Buffalo Bills 1976 Yearbook

1976 Profile: John Skorupan

Linebacker
No. 55
Penn State
"Skorupan was the Bills' most consistent linebacker in 1975, starting all 14 games and coming back from knee surgery that knocked him out of the final eight games of the 1974 season. He had his first pass interception as a pro against the New York Giants in a Monday Night game, made the UPI All-Rookie team in 1973 and continued his outstanding play in 1974 before the injury. A strong, consistent open field tackler, John was the Bills' sixth round draft choice in '73.
John was one of the outstanding defensive players in the East as a senior at Penn State and a consensus All-America selection. He was voted AP Lineman of the Week after the Nittany Lions' 1973 victory over Navy; he had 15 unassisted tackles, three sacks of the quarterback and returned an interception 32 yards for a touchdown against the Midshipmen. John was on Penn State's Sugar and Cotton Bowl elevens, and a member of the Hula Bowl and College All-Star squads.
He worked last winter for a local real estate firm. He's an avid golfer."

-Buffalo Bills 1976 Yearbook

1976 Profile: O.J. Simpson

Running Back
No. 32
USC
"On a trip to Europe last summer, football's most famous personality got a surprise.
'I found that I could walk down a street in Rome and not be recognized, which is a good feeling. I was able to go up to people and ask them questions, just like people do to me back home.' He says he is 'geared up' for football- but he wants to play on the West Coast."

-John Devaney, Schenley Pro Football Guide 1976


"How long will he wait for a Super Bowl? His personal records are unmatched, but without a Super Bowl, the Juice feels his career is incomplete. The sad part is that his dream of a championship will remain just that- a dream.
By far, one of pro football's most exciting players today is O.J. Simpson. His assets are quickness, durability and strength and chief among them is speed, and it is this latter element that enlivens most any stadium on a Sunday when O.J. and his Buffalo Bill teammates are in town.
In a game which is becoming stereotyped and conservative, O.J. is the one who can turn a game around and consequently wake up the fans as well.
Basically, O.J. has seen and done it all. He's the best runner in football today, perhaps for all time, and in 1975 Orenthal James personally outgained nine entire pro teams in rushing yardage. The Juice set new records while piling up 1,817 yards last season and earned even higher respect, with most of the accolades coming from the offensive players in the NFL.
Franco Harris, the premier running back of the Pittsburgh Steelers, and not exactly a slouch when it comes to lugging leather, tells of an amazing incident just before the start of the 1975 season. 'I was jivin' with Lydell (Mitchell) about who would be pushing for me for the AFC rushing title this year,' grinned Harris, 'so Lydell said he would be the most likely candidate since the Colts were now getting it together. Lydell and I made a friendly bet on ourselves and of course we eliminated the Juice from being considered.' Harris laughed. Mitchell, Harris' teammate at Penn State, chimed in to say that 'Franco won the bet but not by much.'
The jocular exchange between Harris and Mitchell is a graphic example about how other players feel towards the Bills' superstar. 'The Juice, quite frankly, is in a world by himself,' said one of the top NFL coaches, 'and I think everybody else knows they have to push for second spot.' And indeed 1975 was a spectacular year for the mild-mannered, outgoing Simpson. He had a personal high of 2,243 net yards gained for 6.3 yards a thrust. That's picking up chunks of yardage, to say the least.
O.J. led the league in rushing for the second time in the last three years, scoring 23 touchdowns to break the single season record of 22 set by Gale Sayers of the Chicago Bears back in 1965. The personal awards kept flowing in as several publications named him Player of the Year, so all in all one would think that O.J. is a happy and contented man. Right? Wrong.
For all his accomplishments, O.J. is beginning to show the signs of wear and tear, not only bodily but psychologically and spiritually. The Bills, while vastly improved over the last half decade, still fall short of what it takes to be Super Bowl champions. They are getting better, thanks to the coaching staff that Lou Saban has put together. The younger players are becoming learned veterans and the offensive line that O.J. desperately needed for so many of his early, struggling years is now recognized as a potent force in the NFL. Still, the Bills lack a top drawer quarterback and a first class defense, and these are factors which hold back the Bills from going higher at this time. For all O.J.'s exceptional accomplishments, the Bills as a team had to struggle to get to .500 in '75. They closed with a ho-hum 8-6 record in third place. What happened?
Well, believe it or not, pro football is beginning to change. If O.J.'s accomplishments were greater more recently, then so are the challenges. Defenses now are designed to contain O.J., since they can't stop him. One NFL coach diagnosed the problem this way: 'Basically, O.J. is a breakaway runner. I know I'll catch some flack from Simpson followers but O.J. simply doesn't have the power like a Brown did or Harris has,' declared the coach. 'And now that the 3-4 defenses have jelled, O.J. can be frustrated if not completely stopped and that directly affects his team's abilities.'
And that precisely is what has been on O.J.'s mind the past two years. How much longer can I go like this and can we ever really pull it off as a team? O.J. himself relates his feelings on this bothersome point. 'There's no doubt that the 3-4 defense has reduced my overall effectiveness. It's simply tougher to run against it because of the pursuit by the linebackers, some of whom are extremely mobile,' Simpson states in a classroom-like manner. 'It's so much more difficult now to pick a hole, declare myself and go into the right spot without running into a linebacker and that can sometimes get me irritated, especially when we need some yardage.'
Some have already begun to question how much longer O.J. can indeed carry the Bills offensively. In 1975, he carried the ball 329 times, and at 1,817 yards gained almost 600 more yards than second place finisher Harris of the Steelers.
Mike Curtis, formerly with the Colts and now with the Seattle Seahawks had some interesting observations. 'Personally, I think they work O.J. far too much but it's really their only alternative. Ferguson's simply not a strong enough quarterback in tough third down situations and Braxton lacks the mobility of O.J.,' Curtis said. 'So we know it's going to be O.J. and we know he'll gain yardage, it's simply a question of how much. I really can't see them in the Super Bowl based on the way they have to operate.'
Indeed, it was a hard judgement for Curtis to make, one would guess, but a fairly accurate one and it is this Super Bowl aspiration that really irritates O.J., though he's too much of a diplomat and has too much riding financially on football to make a big thing of it.
On a recent trip West, I encountered a show business talent agent who is close to the situation involving ABC and Simpson, and he pointed out that O.J. is really miffed at his team's lack of drive toward the end of the '75 season. The agent chose anonymity but discussed what he knew: 'The vibrations I get is that O.J. wants to leave football in the very near future. Look, he's a very big star who has gotten just about everything he's ever wanted in sports but this Super Bowl thing has really begun to haunt him. O.J. is a tough, dedicated man and extremely loyal to those who have helped him, particularly those who really knew his situation in his early years in Buffalo. So though he's not saying it publicly, the fact that the Bills have not been even close to the Super Bowl really galls the hell out of him internally.' The agent continued, 'And my own personal observation is that if the Super Bowl were held tomorrow and the Bills won it, O.J. would announce his retirement the next day. Hey, I've seen it written all over him when he comes back to California. He's tired and frustrated. Hell, he's got more going in TV and commercials now then he'd make in the next five years of pro football but he wants that ring.'
So, in essence what keeps O.J. motivated is pride. He knows that he is one the game's most colorful and exciting players. He knows he is the Bills franchise.
O.J. is a tough, fiercely competitive man, inwardly. Outwardly, he is friendly and outgoing, and in 1975 he did something different. He told everyone he was concentrating on football. His family stayed in Southern California, while O.J. stayed at their home in Williamsville, a suburb of Buffalo. 'That was one of the tougher things I've had to do but there were too many other things that could distract me during the year,' O.J. stated. 'You know that I am very close to my family, that's a solid trait of us Cancerians, but I knew that I had to put all my efforts into football last year and that's the way it'll be this year.'
But the talk quickly turned away from personal matters and back to football. O.J. may be concentrating but when he is himself, a natural, instinctive runner, is when he excels brilliantly. Observing Simpson run is exciting but not easy to understand. He'll hit a hole directly, maybe behind a trap block, and if the hole closes he may do a shuffle step a la Muhammad Ali and then be off in another direction, and yet after the dust settles he's made a significant gain. O.J. is at a loss to explain it.
'No play goes where it's supposed to every time. If I go right because I'm supposed to go there and it's not open then I go elsewhere. It's a matter of exact timing. If I see the defensive charge already committed to a certain place then I'm home free and I know it'll be a gain.' O.J. continues, 'Fundamentally, I see my role as staying away from tacklers. I don't want anyone to get a clean shot at me and most times I accomplish that and that's good. I never was or will be the kind of runner who looks for people to run over. I try to run by them because that's where the big yardage is for me.'
O.J. likes situations where his linemen outnumber opponents, preferable four on three. 'Yes, that's true because I know that I'm quicker and faster than that whole group right at the line, and once I'm in the secondary I also feel I've got the edge on the defensive back. The only area,' O.J. expounds, 'that I feel gives me the greatest trouble is linebacking because they can be very mobile in the short space I need to make my break.'
The defensive people that O.J. has played against with some regularity extol the Juice's abilities. Jamie Rivers, the middle linebacker for the Jets, who put in some time with the St. Louis Cards, remarked, 'When I was in the NFC, I only played against O.J. once and that was an experience. Then when I signed with the Jets, I'd face him twice in one season, I thought. It was then I knew there'd be two Sundays I'd wish I were somewhere else.'
Dwight White, the Steelers' superlative defensive end put it briefly but succinctly: 'Playing against O.J. is usually less than a good experience. You'll learn very quickly just how good you're going to be for that day. He lets you know right away.' Emerson Boozer, a running back for the Jets, and respected for his abilities, offered a sidelight which was both odd and profound: 'I've been watching O.J. closely for years and I've marveled at how he can defy one of the basics of running and still get away with it Sunday after Sunday. He always hesitates, even on plays where you shouldn't. He's got a God-given talent for being able to adjust, slow down or turn on the power. He's the most awesome runner I've ever seen.'
But things football-wise are definitely winding down for O.J. Though he has a contract which will tie him to the Bills through 1977, he feels his career is now a year to year basis. I reminded O.J. that when we first met, he said he felt that 1976 would be his last active year. 'But you'll also recall that I said something about the Super Bowl because I felt even back then we had what it takes to go all the way,' O.J. said with a scolding tone to his voice. Even now it's tough to talk to O.J. about football, more so than it's been in the last two years. He seems to be only half-listening now. His attention wanders after a short time. O.J. acknowledges this but only reluctantly. 'I really never thought I'd find something more interesting than sports but I have to admit that since I've done some acting I like it better.'
O.J. has now made six films, occupying space among the best known of filmdom: Paul Newman, Richard Burton, Lee Marvin, Telly Savalas and shortly, Burt Lancaster and Richard Harris.
So O.J.'s tastes are changing at age 29 and he is now preparing himself for something other than running up and down football fields on Sunday afternoons. He commands more than $100,000 per film while his salary from the Bills is something in the area of $200,000 per year. He also does off-season announcing for ABC-TV and is in his eighth year in that capacity. In addition he does commercials and endorses several products and when he does get time to make a banquet appearance, the fee is usually around $7,000 to $10,000.
And now does O.J. feel about his fame and money? 'I feel very good about all of it. In a manner of speaking, I've really been blessed. I've got my health, a wonderful family. I've had the opportunity to be and do just about all I've ever dreamed of being and doing. I still enjoy football but of course it doesn't mean now what it did 10 years ago or even three years ago,' relates O.J. 'There's still the Super Bowl, that's still one of my strongest dreams and desires. I think to play and win the Super Bowl, particularly if it's played in the Coliseum, would have to be one of the biggest thrills of my life and it's what I'll be working toward this year with everything I can muster.'
So O.J. keeps dreaming of that Super Bowl ring. Sort of a Don Quixote with his quest for yet another last bit of glory. It will be interesting to what becomes of O.J.'s dream. The Bills still have tough competition in their division. The Dolphins are not exactly dead, though they are hurting somewhat physically and psychologically. Obviously they are not the Dolphins of two years ago but they are still strong. The Baltimore Colts, given up for dead before the 1975 season, have placed yet another roadblock in O.J.'s quest for a Super Bowl ring. The Colts came out of nowhere last year to wind up in the playoffs and there's every reason to believe that they, too, will have an awful lot to say about how high and far the Bills and O.J. go this year.
O.J.'s dream of winning the Super Bowl and wearing a ring may have to stay just that- a dream."

-Bob Gotkowski, Complete Sports Pro Football Special 1976


"In seven years as a pro, O.J. Simpson has firmly established himself as the NFL's leading active rusher with 8,123 yards, a total surpassed only by Jim Brown (12,312), Jim Taylor (8,597) and Joe Perry (8,378)- all retired from the game. O.J. scored 23 touchdowns in 1975, breaking Gale Sayers' 10-year-old record, and Simpson's 1,817 yards gained led the NFL for the third time in the last four years. It was the fourth consecutive season he's run for at least 1,000 yards and the total is the third best in NFL history; only his 2,003 yard season in 1973 and Brown's 1,863 yards in 1963 are better.
Simpson's achievement is even more astounding when one takes into consideration the fact that in his first three seasons with the Bills, O.J. rushed for a total of 1,927 yards. That was during the time when head coaches like John Rauch and Harvey Johnson decided O.J. would be more effective as a combination pass receiver, kickoff return specialist and decoy than as a regular in the Bills backfield. After the Bills suffered through the horrendous 1969 (4-10), 1970 (3-10-1) and 1971 (1-13) season, Lou Saban arrived on the scene and promptly did what should have been done three years previous: he handed O.J. the football and told him to do what he did best with it. That belated decision moved Simpson into prominence as the game's premier running back and the Bills into a position of respectability in the NFL.
What makes O.J. Simpson run? First of all, he possesses all the essential traits of a successful back. He's strong enough (6-1, 212) to withstand tackles by men heavier than himself and he's quick enough to elude them. He's brave enough to collide with linebackers and fast enough (he runs a 4.5 forty) to escape from the secondary- usually composed of the fastest players in the NFL. In addition to all this, O.J. is endowed with another quality he contends is largely responsible for his success: cowardice. 'It's true,' he says with a grin. 'I run like a coward. I hit the hole like I'm afraid to hit it. I bounce around behind the line of scrimmage looking for a place to run. I call it my stutter step. If the hole is closed, I feel I can still get four yards, but I'm always thinking fifty. So I look around for another place to run.'
If that's a definition for cowardice, there are at least 200 NFL running backs who would gladly trade in their brawn for O.J.'s yellow streak- as long as his running ability came in the deal.
In addition, Simpson insists that a lot of his success is due to his offensive line. 'I can count on them to hold the blocks while I stutter- step and fake into a hole before flipping inside or out,' says O.J. 'The other things that help me I was born with- football instinct, quickness and acceleration.' The only that remains to be discovered is how Simpson manages to stay away from crutches, wheelchairs and knee operations. 'That's easy,' says Billy Newsome, the defensive left end for the New York Jets. 'You can't hurt O.J. You just try and take him down. You can only hurt a guy when you put all your energy into taking him down. But if you don't leave yourself an extra move, he's past you. The reason is, O.J.'s never extended in such a position that he can't make another move.'"

-Tom Murray, NFL Football Forecast 1976

1976 Profile: Paul Seymour

Tight End
No. 87
Michigan
"Seymour's receiving output continued to improve despite splitting time with Reuben Gant at tight end. He caught 19 passes for 268 yards and one touchdown, and had several clutch third down catches during the season.
Paul has started 42 straight games at tight end after being converted from offensive tackle. His best games: catches- four against Miami in 1975; yardage- 64 (three catches) against New England in 1974. Paul was the Bills' top draft choice in 1973 and is a devastating blocker.
Paul started his college career at tight end and moved to tackle in his junior season. He won All-Big Ten and All-America honors in 1972 and was selected to participate in the Hula Bowl, East-West Shrine game and College All-Star game.
Physical education and history were his areas of concentration as an undergraduate. His brother, Jim, was an All-America at Notre Dame who later played professionally with the Chicago Bears. Paul is a guitar player, and music and reading are his hobbies."

-Buffalo Bills 1976 Yearbook

1976 Profile: Steve Schnarr

Running Back
No. 23
Otterbein
"Schnarr made the Bills roster through tough, hard-nosed special teams play. He played in 12 games in 1975, exclusively on special teams, and had four kickoff returns for 80 yards when opponents kicked short.
Steve set Otterbein rushing records for most carries in a season (161) and most yards in one game (222), tied the school mark for most carries in a game (35), gained 756 yards and scored 10 touchdowns in his last year. He was selected the team's top offensive player and most improved player while earning All-Ohio Athletic Conference first team honors. He played in the All-Ohio Shrine Bowl.
Steve was a biology and education major and is interested in teaching and coaching. He enjoys water sports, horseback riding and cars."

-Buffalo Bills 1976 Yearbook

1976 Profile: Tom Ruud

Linebacker
No. 54
Nebraska
"Ruud started three of the final four games last year and appeared in all 14 at outside linebacker. He was hampered by his late arrival and missed most of training camp, yet showed the speed and agility that could make him a top linebacker. The Bills' number one draft choice in 1975, Tom will be counted on in 1976.
A unanimous All-Big Eight selection in 1974, Tom also earned Associated Press All-American honorable mention. He led the Cornhuskers with 104 tackles while adding three fumble recoveries and two pass interceptions.
Tom was an All-Academic Big Eight choice in both 1973 and 1974 and finished his career with 209 tackles. He played in the Senior Bowl last winter.
A business major interested in banking and public relations, he lists music, hunting, fishing and skiing as his hobbies. He has five sisters and a brother."

-Buffalo Bills 1976 Yearbook

1976 Profile: Willie Parker

Long Snapper-Center
No. 61
North Texas State
"Parker has played in every game for the Bills for the past two years, seeing action on special teams and as a snapper for punts, field goals and PAT's. He's also been the number one backup center and can play guard; versatility is his big asset.
Willie was drafted third by San Francisco in 1971 and spent most of that season on the 49ers reserve squad. He was on the LA reserve list for a full year before being picked up by Buffalo for a future draft choice in September 1973.
Parker was a second team All-Missouri Valley Conference choice as a junior and a first team selection as a senior. He went back to Texas this winter after spending the two previous years in Orchard Park. He has passed his insurance examination."

-Buffalo Bills 1976 Yearbook

1976 Profile: Bob Nelson

Middle Linebacker
No. 56
Nebraska
"Nelson was dressed for the first three games of the 1975 season before being placed on the injured reserve list with a leg injury. He missed most of training camp but impressed the coaches with his aggressiveness and strength before being hurt. Bob will be a strong challenger for a middle linebacker berth this year.
He was a teammate, classmate and roommate of Tom Ruud, the Bills' first round pick in the 1975 draft. Bob was a second team All-Big Eight selection his last year and a standout performer in the Senior Bowl. He was involved in 198 tackles while picking up three varsity letters at Nebraska and had a pair of fumble recoveries and a pass interception during his career.
A business education major interested in coaching, Bob has worked summers in a family ice cream plant."

-Buffalo Bills 1976 Yearbook

1976 Profile: Mike Montler

Center
No. 53
Colorado
"Montler started every game at center for the second straight year and ran his consecutive string to 35 straight starts. He didn't miss a game in 1974 despite a painful leg injury. He took over the starting duties in the ninth game of the 1973 season when Bruce Jarvis was injured and has beaten off all challengers to the center spot. Mike came to Buffalo as an offensive tackle, yet made the switch easily.
Mike was acquired by Buffalo in the trade that also brought Jim Cheyunski and Halvor Hagen from New England. He was a starting offensive lineman for four years in New England where he was a second round draft choice in 1969. He's the oldest man on the Buffalo roster.
Montler won All-America and All-Big Eight honors as a tackle for Eddie Crowder at Colorado. Captain of the Buffaloes as a senior, he captured the Ernie Davis Memorial Award in the 1969 Coaches' All-America Game. Mike was a member of the Blue-Grey, Hula and Senior Bowl squads and the College All-Star team.
Mike played service football during a four-year tour in the Marine Corps. His duty stations included San Diego and Okinawa. His undergraduate major at Colorado was business with a minor in journalism. He's worked in the off-season with a Sheriff's department and in the PR departments of both a bank and a real estate firm."

-Buffalo Bills 1976 Yearbook

1976 Profile: Royce McKinney

Kick Returner-Defensive Back
No. 41
Kentucky State
"McKinney appeared in nine games with the Bills last year after being signed as a free agent early in the season. He started one game at safety and saw action on special teams and as a fifth defensive back. Royce returned six kickoffs for 151 yards and a 25.2 average. His longest return was for 37 yards.
Royce was a four-year starter at Kentucky State and was an NAIA All-American. Fourth in the NAIA in 1974 with a 23.6 punt return average, he returned punts 69 and 65 yards for touchdowns and had eight interceptions, returning three for touchdowns."

-Buffalo Bills 1976 Yearbook

1976 Profile: Reggie McKenzie

Guard
No. 67
Michigan
"McKenzie has now started 57 straight games with the Bills in the last four years, with a strong performance in 1975 to help the Bills' offense break several records. An All-Conference selection of both UPI and the Sporting News in 1974 after winning All-Pro honors from the AP, Pro Football Writers and Football News in 1973. He was also the winner of the Wisconsin Pro Football Writers' award as the NFL's top blocking lineman in 1973.
Reggie has outstanding speed and the ability to get out in front of a play, and his pass blocking is vastly improved. He has outstanding leadership traits and is the Bills' player representative.
McKenzie was a consensus All-American for Bo Schembechler at Michigan and a member of two Michigan Rose Bowl teams (1970,1972). A two-time All-Big Ten choice, he won invitations to the Hula Bowl and College All-Star games.
Reggie won his B.S. degree in physical education and has ambitions for graduate study, perhaps in law. He was co-chairman of Buffalo Brotherhood Week for the National Conference of Christians and Jews and worked during the off-season as a public relations representative for a local hotel. Music and reading are Reggie's hobbies.
He has four brothers and three sisters and was married in June to Gthellean Hicks, Miss Massachusetts of 1974."

-Buffalo Bills 1976 Yearbook

1976 Profile: John McCrumbly

Middle Linebacker
No. 57
Texas A&M
"McCrumbly appeared in 13 games last year, including two as a starter at middle linebacker. He backed up Merv Krakau in the middle and saw considerable action in the last half of the season when the Bills went to a 3-4 alignment. John has quick feet and is a strong hitter.
He earned All-Southwest Conference honors as a middle linebacker with the Aggies in 1974 and was a two-time All-American linebacker at Tyler Junior College before transferring to Texas A&M. He was a high school fullback.
John is a recreation and parks major who would like to become a coach. He enjoys pool and swimming."

-Buffalo Bills 1976 Yearbook