|Born:||June 18, 1963|
Norfolk, Virginia, U.S.
|Height:||6 ft 4 in (1.93 m)|
|Weight:||265 lb (120 kg)|
|High school:|| Booker T. Washington |
|College:||Virginia Tech (1981–1984)|
|NFL Draft:||1985 / Round: 1 / Pick: 1|
|Career highlights and awards|
|Career NFL statistics|
|Player stats at NFL.com · PFR|
Bruce Bernard Smith (born June 18, 1963) is an American former football defensive end who played in the National Football League (NFL) for 19 seasons, primarily with the Buffalo Bills. He played college football at Virginia Tech, where he was a two-time All-American, and was selected first overall by the Bills in the 1985 NFL Draft. Considered one of the greatest defensive ends of all time, Smith is the NFL's all-time career leader in quarterback sacks with 200.Smith also received 11 Pro Bowl selections and eight first-team All-Pro honors, while appearing in four consecutive Super Bowls with the Bills. He was inducted to the College Football Hall of Fame in 2006 and the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2009.
Smith is a native of Norfolk, Virginia, where he graduated from Booker T. Washington High School. Following an all-state high school career, Smith accepted an athletic scholarship to Virginia Tech. Known as "The Sack Man" as a Hokie, Smith finished his college career in 1984 as the most honored player in Hokie history. Foreshadowing his future success in pursuing quarterbacks in the NFL, he had a career total of 71 tackles behind the line of scrimmage, for losses totaling 504 yards. Smith had 46 career sacks, including an NCAA-leading 22 during a junior season in 1983 that saw him named First-team All-America by the AFCA (Coaches) and Newspaper Enterprise Association. In 1984, Smith capped off his tenure in Blacksburg with the Outland Trophy, given to the nation's top lineman, and a consensus selection to the All-America Team. His accomplishments at Virginia Tech earned him a spot in the Virginia Tech Sports Hall of Fame.
Following this stellar collegiate career, Smith was drafted by both the Buffalo Bills with the first pick of the 1985 NFL Draft and by the United States Football League Baltimore Stars in the 1985 USFL Territorial Draft, and he decided to sign with the Bills. In his rookie year, he had just 6.5 sacks while starting thirteen games. After a rookie season in which his poor training habits limited his effectiveness, inspiration from teammate Darryl Talley and finding love with a college counselor whom he eventually married inspired him to improve his game.He quickly became known as a sack specialist, with fifteen in 1986. He had his first Pro Bowl and All-Pro selection the following year while having twelve sacks in twelve games. He recorded a touchdown that season in the December 13 game against the Indianapolis Colts on a fumble recovery in the end zone. It was his first and only touchdown in his career. He continued his run in 1988 with eleven sacks in twelve games. This was the first season for Smith in the playoffs and he would make the most of it with three sacks in two postseason games, although the Bills lost in the AFC title game to the Cincinnati Bengals.
In March 1989, as a restricted free agent, Smith signed an offer-sheet with the Denver Broncos for $7.5 million over five years. Smith had excelled as their defensive leader, but the Bills were concerned about him with his substance abuse problem (since he had been suspended four games the previous year for it) and thus had him followed by undercover detectives in November, which stuck with him months later. Faced with the choice between Smith and two draft choices from Denver, the Bills picked Smith.Now, as the highest-paid defensive player in the league, Smith would stay with the Bills for a considerable amount of time. He responded by playing in all sixteen games of the season and recording thirteen sacks to make his third straight Pro Bowl. He broke the record for sacks by a Bill all-time during the year (51), and he would continue to raise the total for years to come. Some conjecture that his 171 sacks in Buffalo set a standard that "may be unreachable" for future Bills. He recorded half a sack in the divisional round playoff game that year, which the Bills lost to the Cleveland Browns 34–30.
The next year, his defensive performance helped bring the Bills to Super Bowl XXV when he set a personal high in sacks with nineteen (three short of the then record for sacks in a season). He did not have a sack in either of the first two playoff games for the Bills, but Smith saved his efforts for Super Bowl XXV against the New York Giants. He sacked Jeff Hostetler in the end zone in the second quarter, becoming only the fifth player to record a Super Bowl safety (which gave the Bills a 12–3 lead in the second quarter).Later, Smith forced New York to turn the ball over on downs by tackling running back Ottis Anderson for a two-yard loss on a fourth-down conversion attempt. Only a failed last-second field goal attempt that narrowly went wide right kept the team from its first NFL championship.
In 1991, though Smith's knee problems forced him out for most of the season, the Bills once again reached the Super Bowl. In 1992, in much better health, Smith was again a first-team All-Pro and was voted to the Pro Bowl while recording a team-leading fourteen sacks, and he repeated his sack total the following year. He led the league in forced fumbles twice with five (1994, 1996).
By 1996, though the Bills' run of Super Bowl appearances had ended, Smith was still putting up prolific numbers, with ninety tackles and fourteen sacks. In 1997, Smith had 65 tackles and fourteen sacks and by 1998, although he was getting older, he still had a respectable fifty tackles and ten sacks.
In the final postseason game of his career, he recorded a best in sacks with 2.5 in the wild card round game for the Bills against the Tennessee Titans, although they lost 22–16 on a last-second controversial play.Smith, along with Andre Reed and Thurman Thomas, was dumped from the Bills roster in an emergency salary cap measure after the 1999 season.
Smith signed with the Washington Redskins as a free agent. Although he was now playing in mostly passing situations, he posted 58 tackles and ten sacks in his first season. He pressed onward in pursuit of Reggie White's all-time sacks record (198, achieved in 15 seasons), which he passed in Week 14 of the 2003 NFL season by sacking New York Giants quarterback Jesse Palmer in a 20–7 win at Giants Stadium.Smith finished his career with 200 career sacks, the only person ever to reach that mark.
Smith had hinted in interviews that 2003 would be his final season, but never completely ruled out continuing to play. However, on February 24, 2004, the Redskins released Smith, saving $6.5 million in salary cap space.
Smith was a first-ballot inductee to the NFL Hall of Fame. In his 19 NFL seasons, Smith played in 279 games, amassing a record 200 sacks, two interceptions, 46 forced fumbles, and 15 fumble recoveries, one of which he returned for a 33-yard touchdown. Of his 19 seasons in the NFL, 13 of them were seasons where he had at least ten sacks, a testament to his consistency year in and year out. He was also named to an All-Pro team ten times. As Smith spent most of his career in a 3–4 defensive scheme, a defensive scheme not geared toward creating sack opportunities for defensive ends, many consider the record particularly impressive.Indeed, Smith's peers elected him to the Pro Bowl every season from 1987 to 1998 (with the exception of his injury-shortened 5-game 1991 season). In 1987, he was named the Pro Bowl MVP. Smith was twice named the AP's NFL Defensive Player of the Year (1990, 1996), twice the NEA's (1990, 1993) and four times the UPI's AFC Defensive Player of the Year (1987, 1988, 1990, 1996).
|AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year|
|Led the league|
Smith lives in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Having returned to his home state, Smith works as a large-scale hotel designer, undertaking many projects with Armada Hoffler. Most recently, he returned to Blacksburg, the site of his collegiate successes, where he purchased the Red Lion Inn. He built a Hilton Garden Inn Hotel with 137 sleeping rooms and is working on redeveloping the site (Smith's Landing, hotel and restaurant complex).A Baptist, he is a member of Queen Street Baptist Church in Norfolk. Smith and his wife Carmen have a son, Alston.
Smith also works with Thurman Thomas in their new business venture, Legends Energy Group. They promote energy programs across North America.
Smith, Andre Reed, Thurman Thomas, and Jim Kelly were the subject of the 30 for 30 film Four Falls of Buffalo in 2015.
Sam Adams is a former American football defensive tackle who played in the National Football League (NFL) for 14 seasons. He played college football at Texas A&M, where he earned consensus All-American honors, and was selected eighth overall by the Seattle Seahawks in the 1994 NFL Draft. Following six seasons as a member of the Seahawks, he earned consecutive Pro Bowl selections and All-Pro honors during his two seasons with the Baltimore Ravens. Adams was also part of the team that won a Super Bowl title in Super Bowl XXXV and made another championship appearance in his one season for the Oakland Raiders in 2002. As a member of the Buffalo Bills from 2003 to 2004, Adams was named to a third Pro Bowl. He spent his last two seasons with Cincinnati Bengals and Denver Broncos.
Reginald Howard White was an American professional football player who played defensive end in the National Football League (NFL) for 15 seasons during the 1980s and 1990s. He played college football for the University of Tennessee, and was recognized as an All-American. After playing two professional seasons for the Memphis Showboats of the United States Football League (USFL), he was selected in the first round of the 1984 Supplemental Draft, and then played for the NFL's Philadelphia Eagles, Green Bay Packers, and Carolina Panthers, becoming one of the most awarded defensive players in NFL history.
Tedy Lacap Bruschi is a former professional American football player who was a linebacker in the National Football League (NFL) for 13 seasons, who currently serves as the senior advisor to the head coach at University of Arizona. He played college football for the University of Arizona, and was a two-time consensus All-American. He was drafted by the New England Patriots in the third round of the 1996 NFL Draft, and played his entire professional career with the Patriots. Bruschi won three Super Bowls and was a two-time second-team All-Pro selection.
Brian Patrick Dawkins Sr. is an American former football safety who played 16 seasons in the National Football League (NFL), primarily with the Philadelphia Eagles. He played college football at Clemson and was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles in the second round of the 1996 NFL Draft. In his last three seasons, he played for the Denver Broncos.
Keith Howard Brooking is a former American football linebacker in the National Football League (NFL). He was drafted by the Atlanta Falcons in the first round of the 1998 NFL Draft and also played for the Dallas Cowboys and Denver Broncos. He played college football at Georgia Tech. Brooking was a five-time Pro Bowl selection with the Falcons.
Charles Lewis Haley is a former American football outside linebacker and defensive end who played in the National Football League (NFL) for the San Francisco 49ers and the Dallas Cowboys (1992–1996).
Vincent Lamar Wilfork is a former American football nose tackle who played in the National Football League (NFL) for 13 seasons, primarily with the New England Patriots. He played college football for the University of Miami and was drafted by the Patriots in the first round of the 2004 NFL Draft. He also played two seasons for the Houston Texans before retiring following the 2016 season. Along with Tom Brady, Wilfork is the only Patriots player to win the Super Bowl in both decades of the Patriots dynasty.
Cornell Desmond Brown is a former American college and professional football player who was a linebacker in the National Football League (NFL) for seven seasons. He played college football for Virginia Tech, and earned All-American honors twice. Drafted late in the sixth round of the 1997 NFL Draft, he played professionally for the NFL's Baltimore Ravens. He is currently a defensive ends coach for Marshall. In 2013, Brown was inducted into the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame.
Rickey Anderson Jackson is a former American football linebacker who played in the National Football League (NFL) for the New Orleans Saints (1981–1993) and the San Francisco 49ers (1994–1995). He led the team's Dome Patrol linebacker corps while playing with the Saints. In 1997, Jackson was inducted into the New Orleans Saints Hall of Fame. Jackson won a Super Bowl ring with the 49ers in Super Bowl XXIX one year before retiring. On February 7, 2010, Jackson was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
James Wilson Jeffcoat, Jr. is a former American football defensive end in the National Football League for the Dallas Cowboys and Buffalo Bills. He was most recently an assistant football coach for the Dallas Renegades of the XFL. He played college football at Arizona State University. He won two Super Bowls with the Cowboys over the Bills.
Bryan Keith Cox Sr. is an American football coach and former player. He is the assistant defensive line coach for the New York Giants of the National Football League (NFL). He played college football for Western Illinois University, an FCS program that has developed other NFL talent, and received attention for his aggressive style of play. Although Cox was a relatively late fifth-round pick by the Miami Dolphins in the 1991 NFL Draft, he rose to prominence as a standout linebacker during his twelve NFL seasons from 1991 through 2002. He was a three-time pro bowler with the Miami Dolphins, and was also a member of the New England Patriots club that won Super Bowl XXXVI.
Johnie Earl Cooks is a former professional American football player who was drafted by the Baltimore Colts as the second overall pick in the 1982 NFL Draft. A 6'4", 251 lb (114 kg). linebacker from Mississippi State University, Cooks played in ten NFL seasons from 1982 to 1991 for the Colts, New York Giants, and Cleveland Browns. He was a member of the Giants when they defeated the Buffalo Bills 20–19 in Super Bowl XXV.
Alan Keith Branch is a former American football defensive tackle. He was drafted by the Arizona Cardinals in the second round of the 2007 NFL Draft and has also played for the Seattle Seahawks, Buffalo Bills, and New England Patriots. He played college football at Michigan.
Vonnie B'VSean Miller is an American football outside linebacker for the Buffalo Bills of the National Football League (NFL). Miller played college football at Texas A&M, where he earned consensus All-American honors and the Butkus Award. He was selected by the Denver Broncos second overall in the 2011 NFL Draft.
Linval Clement Joseph is an American football defensive tackle for the Philadelphia Eagles of the National Football League (NFL). He played college football at East Carolina. He was drafted by the New York Giants in the second round, 46th overall of the 2010 NFL Draft. He has also played for the Minnesota Vikings and Los Angeles Chargers.
Cody James Grimm is an American football coach and former safety who is the safeties coach for the Jacksonville Jaguars of the National Football League (NFL). He previously served as an assistant coach for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Fletcher Cox is an American football defensive end for the Philadelphia Eagles of the National Football League (NFL). He played college football at Mississippi State, and was drafted by the Eagles in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft. Cox is a Super Bowl champion and has been selected to the Pro Bowl six times.
Shaquil Akeem "Shaq" Barrett is an American football outside linebacker for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers of the National Football League (NFL). He played college football at the University of Nebraska-Omaha before transferring to Colorado State University, and was signed by the Denver Broncos as an undrafted free agent in 2014. After five seasons with the Broncos, including winning Super Bowl 50, Barrett signed with the Buccaneers. His level of play increased, making the Pro Bowl and All-Pro teams in 2019 after leading the league in sacks, and in 2021 won Super Bowl LV.
Matt Sheldon is the Director of Research and Football Strategy for the Las Vegas Raiders of the National Football League (NFL). He is a professional football coach, analyst and researcher with extensive NFL experience in research/analytics, in-game strategy, coaching and video editing with the New York Jets, Miami Dolphins, Chicago Bears, Minnesota Vikings, Buffalo Bills, St. Louis Rams and New Orleans Saints. Additionally, he has worked with the Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League (CFL) and the Wisconsin Badgers of the NCAA. Sheldon also served as director of sports solutions development with Zebra Sports, the official provider of player tracking for the NFL. Sheldon has consulted with teams and leagues at the professional, olympic, collegiate and high school levels in North America and Europe. His areas of focus include strategy/tactics and decision-making, athlete tracking systems and elite athlete performance. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota's Carlson School of Management and the University University of Wisconsin M.B.A. Program.
Fe'Zahn Tremaine Edmunds is an American football linebacker for the Buffalo Bills of the National Football League (NFL). He played college football at Virginia Tech and was drafted by the Bills in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft.