(Born February 3, 1950) -- The Buffalo Bills hit home runs when they took O.J. Simpson and Bruce Smith with the first overall pick in the NFL draft. They were less successful when they took Walt Patulski.
The pick was a natural one. Patulski was a star athlete in three sports in Syracuse, and went on to be a star at Notre Dame. In fact, he was recently named to that university’s All-Century team.
The Bills needed a defensive lineman, and grabbed Patulski. He started right away, and led Buffalo with five sacks as a rookie. But then injuries caught up to him, as well as the doubts of his own coaches. Lou Saban once said about Patulski that he “just went through the motions.”
Patulski spent four years with the Bills, and then was sent to the Cardinals in a trade in 1976. There he suffered a bad knee injury that ended his career.
Patulski returned to Syracuse and became a success there by any definition. He received the key to the city for his community work. However, the ex-pro will never be able to get out of bed without stretching his back for 10 minutes, and he’ll never be able to run. Those are the constant reminders of his football days.
--- Budd Bailey