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This Day in Buffalo Sports History: A second chance

     February 22, 1985 -- The Buffalo Bills had the first overall draft choice in 1972, and took a defensive end. Walt Patulski, it's fair to say, didn't work out.

     Buffalo did better when it had the chance in 1985.

     There was some pressure on the Bills from the public to take a quarterback from Boston College named Doug Flutie. But there were questions about Flutie, and he eventually signed with the United States Football League.

     Besides, Bill Polian -- then a rising executive in the Bills' front office -- had other ideas. He negotiated a contract with Bruce Smith, a defensive end from Virginia Tech. Smith had won the Outland Trophy, which goes to college football's best lineman. He had 22 sacks in his junior year alone. Smith was 6-foot-4 and 265 pounds, and amazingly quick.

     The negotiations weren't easy -- Polian supposedly even got into a three-point stance to demonstrate a point during the talks -- but the two sides came together when before the 1985 draft. Smith reportedly signed for $2.6 million over four years.

     It took Smith a little time to get the hang of playing in the NFL. But once he did, he was destined for the Hall of Fame. In fact, there's only one player who went in the first round of the '85 draft that might have been a better choice. But no one knew Jerry Rice would become that good.

--- Budd Bailey

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