Just a reminder: I'll be chatting live tomorrow from The News at 1 p.m. I'm assuming it'll be Tim Graham and me on video for the first 30 minutes or so, then I'll move over to print extravaganza soon after. Hope to chat with you then.
Note: Due to audio difficulties, the beginning of the chat is unavailable.
Just a reminder, I'll be chatting at 1 p.m. today instead of Friday. Took Friday off for the bye week. Tim Graham and I will probably go live video for a half hour or so, then I'll do print version until I get sick of people.
In late August of 1996, I interviewed Kent Hull at his condo in Orchard Park. Four months later, he retired. Here are a few memorable quotes from that sit-down with the former Bills center, who died Tuesday.
"When I came here in 1986, Tim Vogler was the starting center. I told my wife (Kay) not to even come up here. I said because when Tim gets well, I'm probably going to get my walking papers. And that never happened, so I said I guess you better come on up here."
"It's funny, I hated football all my life. I wanted to play basketball. I loved basketball. I had a light out in my driveway at home. I'd plug it in and they'd have to come out and get me. It'd be 11:30, 12 o'clock at night. My dad played at Mississippi State with Bailey Howell and that crew. They won the SEC under Babe McCarthy."
"I had some good offers to play basketball, from LSU and some others. My high school coach, Hollis Rutter, said, 'Son, it takes 22 to start in football and five in basketball." He said, 'You're a good enough athlete, you'll find somewhere to play. So I signed for football (at Mississippi State). I figured I'd try it for a year and if it didn't work out, I'd go somewhere else."
"My role in the no-huddle was somewhat important. You couldn't get the play off if it wasn't. But it's minute, compared to what Jim (Kelly) does, or Thurman (Thomas) or Andre Reed. I look at a front. I make a call. I just happen to be lucky enough that I understand football and can do it quickly. You can't get off a play until it's said. So the faster I'm making my calls, the faster we're running the no-huddle. But it's nothing compared to what they're doing. Theirs is more physical. Mine is mental."
"I enjoy my position as a leader. Every family has internal problems. I always liked being one of the ones who mediated those problems. I feel I can do it in a more tactful way than some other people Marv (Levy) has a great knack for that. There's a time to say something. I always say to myself, 'I hate to have to talk to the team.' But it comes so instinctively."
Hull had signed a contract to remain in Buffalo, rather than test the waters in the early stages of unrestricted free agency. His agent wanted him to test the market, but he decided to stay. Bills fans loved him for it.
"I get cards a lot, especially after I renegotiated. I got a lot of letters, flowers, I got everything, man. 'Thanks for not trying free agency.' I got maybe 100 letters, even a couple of things with candy in them. I wanted to stay here. It meant a lot to me to stay here. I guess I'm spoiled with Marv. I didn't want to go to a team where I had to re-invent myself. I thought I was settled here and it was more convenient."
Some good quotes from former Bills linebacker Darryl Talley on Kent Hull, who passed away yesterday in Mississippi:
"Kent didn't yell or scream or anything. But when he came over and sat you down to talk, you listened. You thought, 'OK, this is what I need to do,' and you did it. He was truly a man among boys. We were the only team that would send out five receivers in those days, along with Houston, so he had responsibility for the blocking schemes and everything. When Jim (Kelly) got knocked stupid, Kent would turn around and tell Jim, 'We don't have the personnel to do that. We can't do that!'"
"He was a very old soul, a very old soul who was really calming in a s---storm. He would be the calmest one in the room. He called me "Whacker". He'd look at me and go, "Nah, Whacker, can't do that."
"I called him 'Tough.' People talk about the things I went through. He was one of the toughest guys I ever saw, because what he dealt with on a consistent basis -- hurt or not, it didn't matter. He knew he had a job to do and he was going to do it. As long as he had his hands under Jim's ass, we had a chance."
"I've seen him get hurt and he'd say, 'I can't come out of the damn game.' He had that mentality and worked it into the rest of the O linemen. They could be hurt, but they couldn't come out. He didn't care, and he held them to that standard. He held himself to it. That's why I called him 'Tough'. He'd need knee surgery and say, 'I don't need to run that far.'"
"We talked about what it meant to walk out of the tunnel (at home). Most of us were from blue-collar families, blue-collar towns. We all had to work really hard to get where we got. We were all thankful for the opportunity to play. It wasn't like we had some sort of entitlement to play the game, and to play it with the group of guys we played with."
"Is it like losing a brother? My God, it WAS losing a brother. My wife didn't even think I was going to get up and drive today. She said, 'Don't go. Stay here.' I said, 'No. One thing I know about Kent. He would want you to do what you had to do.' There's a big hole in all our lives right now. And it's going to be there for awhile, because he will be missed."
Kent Hull was one of the smartest, most decent and accommodating players I've dealt with during my 20-plus years in Buffalo. During the Super Bowl years, Hull was a dependable source of wisdom on a team of amazing athletes and characters. You could always count on Kent for insight into the team and the game. He wouldn't rip anyone or say anything controversial, but he provided perspective and intelligence and you almost always used his comments prominently. It was the unvarnished truth.
We called him our go-to guy. That's a designation reporters use for athletes who can always be relied on for a solid quote. We even had Kent Hull moratoriums. If you thought you had been using Kent too much, you took a week off and went to other players for the money quote. To this day, we talk about Hull in the locker room. The other day, George Wilson was surrounded on Media Day. A couple of veterans were off to the side. One of them told me, "I'm on a Senator Moratorium."
Every so often, an athlete will become a popular source for quotes in the locker room. We'll wonder, is he moving up to Kent Hull level? All I can say is there will never be another one like him.
Hull was also a great player, of course, the axis of that no-huddle offense. Tom Bresnahan, who coached offensive line and then was coordinator in those years, once told me Hull was the best center ever to play. He said no one else could have handled the responsibility of being the center for the no-huddle in those days. He had to make the line calls, identify blitzers, tell Jim Kelly when a play wouldn't work. He was also a terrific pass blocker and a fine run blocker in space.
I'll have more as the day goes along. Just had an amazing interview with Darryl Talley. Not surprisingly, Talley was the first one to call. He was very emotional last night and we decided to wait until this morning to talk. I'll post that later. I also found quotes from an interview with Hull in August of 1996, before his final year with the Bills. I'll post some of those, too.
After a one-week hiatus, Tim Graham will be returning for a video chat with the Sull Man at 1 p.m. today. We'll go for about a half an hour, then I will resume with the written event. I hope to go another two hours, the knucklehead factor notwithstanding. Lots to discuss this week -- Bills at Giants, Sabres home opener, the baseball playoffs, and of course, the embarrassment of my beloved Red Sox.
See you at 1 p.m. I'll be able to post the questions on video this time, I promise.
If you were looking to judge Chan Gailey against some of the NFL's best head coaches, you couldn't have asked for a better stretch of games. There are four current NFL head coaches who appear on the list of the NFL's top 25 coaches in career victories (including postseason). The Bills are in the midst of playing against all four in a stretch of five games.
Bill Belichick is 10th with 181 wins. The Bills beat his Patriots in Week 3. Andy Reid is 24th on the list with 129 victories. Check. The Bills just beat his Eagles. Next up on the Bills schedule? The Giants' Tom Coughlin, 21st on the coaching win chart with 144 wins. The fourth name on the list is Mike Shanahan, currently 16th all-time with 163 toal victories. His Redskins play Buffalo in Toronto after the bye.
So Gailey has a chance to sweep the board against the four winningest coaches in the league if he wins Sunday, then in Toronto against the Redskins. Players always talk about wanting to judge themselves against the best, I asked Gailey on Wednesday. Does it mean anything extra to you, beating these guys?
When there's a death in your extended family, there's a tendency to feel a greater sense of your own mortality. You clutch your own family members close to you and remember how fortunate you are to be alive. I imagine that's what a lot of Bills fans will be thinking today when they hear of the death of Raiders owner Al Davis.
You think of Bills owner Ralph Wilson, sitting up in Detroit recovering from a broken hip. Wilson is 92, a full 10 years older than his old AFL compatriot. For the first time in 52 years, Wilson has been unable to attend home games. Davis, another of the old guard from the AFL, is gone. You wonder how much time Wilson has left, and what will happen to Buffalo's beloved franchise when he is gone.
You can pray that Wilson regains his strength and lives to 100. Or hope there's a group out there with the money and will to buy the team from his estate and keep it in Buffalo. There have been renewed rumblings of late, rumors that Jim Kelly's group is poised to buy the team, or that a Bills fan with deep pockets in LA wants to buy the Bills and keep them in Buffalo.
Rest in peace, Al Davis. You did a lot to make the NFL what it is today. Bills fans, meanwhile, can't be blamed for being a little restless.